BY NICK CLARK
Hale Irwin, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Mark Brooks, Brad Faxon, Hal Sutton, Kirk Triplett, Scott Simpson and Fuzzy Zoeller.
Okay, and just for fun, Dave Tentis and John Harris, too.
For those with even very little knowledge of golf, that’s a pretty notable list. For Don Berry, who’s been immersed in the sport for the better part of his life, even he’s a little impressed.
“Yeah,” Berry said last week, “those are some good ones.”
Berry is nearing his 25th year as a golf professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, and he’s been the club’s head pro since 1996.
He’s also arguably one of the best players the state has ever produced. He’s in the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame. He’s won over 200 tournaments nationwide, and was the Minnesota Section PGA Player of the Year an astonishing 14 years in a row.
He’s played in a U.S. Open, and four PGA Championships, including the 2002 PGA at Hazeltine National, when he made the cut and walked the final 18 holes on Sunday alongside Tom Watson.
As one would imagine, for someone with his type of resume, big names like those listed above don’t intimidate Berry.
Especially now after he beat all of them in the 3M Championship Aug. 3-5 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.
Berry, playing in his first Champions Tour event, carded a 4-under par, 212 that left him tied for 46th in the 81-player event.
He was in position for a top-20 finish after two days, after opening with rounds of 70 and 69 on the par-72 Arnold Palmer and Tom Lehmen designed layout.
But even after posting a 73 on the third and final day, Berry left feeling good about where he stands as a 51-year old still in the prime of his playing days.
“I felt like I was hitting the ball well, and I did that most of the tournament,” he said. “I feel I can play with these guys. Some are a little longer, but as far as hitting fairways and greens and having good looks at birdies, I felt like I was as good as the majority of them. That’s encouraging.”
It could really be if Berry were interested in trying to earn a permanent playing card for the Champions Tour, and he’s admitted to giving the idea some thought.
Last week, the biggest difference between Berry and the rest of the field wasn’t their golf games, it was the direction the headed afterwards.
The private jet sector at Anoka County airport beckoned most of the players, and almost all of them will land sometime this week in Endicott, N.Y. to play in this weekend’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
Berry, meanwhile, headed home to Rogers, where he has two young children, and where he is still just a 20-minute or so drive to work at Edinburgh.
Should Berry pursue a Champions Tour card, that routine would change dramatically.
“Am I comfortable with life as it has always been, or do you want to go out and give something else a shot?,” Berry asked himself aloud. “At this point, I am kind of thinking about it a little bit in the back of my head, but I just look at it now, and I have two young kids at home and a job I love. I don’t know how you would want any more. The majority of those guys have kids in college. That takes a lot of the pressure off of being home. To be honest, I guess the answer is ‘I don’t know,’ but it is an awfully good question.”
In the meantime, he has fewer to answer about his game. A month before the 3M started, Berry said his swing wasn’t feeling great. That changed in the days leading up to the event, and he played like it.
That first day he finished with the low round in an all-Minnesotan threesome of himself, Dave Tentis and John Harris.
He played with Chip Beck and Andrew Magee Saturday, and then joined Mark Calcavechia and Steve Lowery in the final round Sunday.
Tournament Director Hollis Cavner handed Berry the chance to play by giving him an exemption. His play likely earned him another one next year.
“We’ll see,” Berry said. “I’d take it. I have to thank Hollis. He had guys who had won Majors on the PGA tour calling and asking to get in, but he gave me that exemption instead. I had a lot of fun with it, and I think I made a contribution to the tournament.”