Berry Ties Tourney Record with 10th Section Championship Win, Advances to Nationals with Seven Others
August 28, 2019
By Nick Hunter
PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. – Firing a 3-under 69 in difficult conditions Tuesday, Don Berry erased a two-stroke deficit during the final round of the 89th Minnesota PGA Professional Championship to earn a three-stroke victory over Jeff Sorenson, Eric Chiles and Scott McDonald at The Preserve at Grand View Lodge.
Winning his first section championship since 2015, Berry ties Gunnard Johnson for the most wins in tournament history at 10. Johnson won the inaugural tournament in 1931, adding nine more from 1934 to 1946. For Berry, 22 years separate his first and 10th victories at the event.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to [10 tournament victories],” Berry said. “When you get to my age, you don’t know if you’re ever going to win another one. It’s really cool for me to win 10. Who wins 10 of anything?”
Inclement weather delayed the start of the championship by nearly eight hours Monday before play was ultimately suspended following only six holes of play. The opening round resumed early Tuesday with a shotgun start before final-round action began that afternoon.
Joining Berry at the national championship next April in Austin, Texas are Sorenson, McDonald and Eric Chiles, who each finished the championship Tuesday tied for second at 2-under 142, as well as Brent Snyder and Bill Israelson, who earned a share of fifth place at 1-under 143.
Jesse Nelson and Corey Johnson earned the final two qualifying spots Tuesday, eliminating Mike Barge in a two-hole playoff after finishing tied for seventh at 144.
Finishing the final 12 holes of the first round in a tie for fifth place at 2-under 70 Tuesday, Berry entered the final round of play two shots behind leaders Sorenson and Snyder. Berry quickly narrowed the deficit with birdies at the first and sixth holes before he claimed his first lead of the championship at the par-3 eighth hole, rolling in a 6-footer for birdie.
Carding a pair of late bogeys, Berry managed to keep a two-shot advantage before making a crucial par save at the par-4 15th to limit the damage.
‘I made a nice par there and that was key because it calmed me down a bit from bogeying 13 and 14. Three in a row would’ve been tough at that point,” he said.
Knocking his second shot at the par-5 16th over the green, Berry got up-and-down for birdie to regain a three-shot advantage on the way to his third victory of the season, earning $5,500 for his efforts this week.
“The morning round I really didn’t feel like I hit the ball that well,” Berry said Tuesday. “This afternoon I hit the ball really good. When you’re hitting the ball well and driving it well, everything’s solid and it’s much easier to stay calm. When you’re struggling a bit, that’s when it becomes a grind.
“It was more of a walk in the park this afternoon—the first round was a grind and the second round was the easy one. I know it was windy, but when you’re playing good, you don’t even notice it too much.”
Berry outlasted Steve Whittaker, a former two-time Minnesota Golf Association Senior Men’s Player of the Year, in a marathon six-hole playoff to win the Minnesota Senior Open at The Jewel in early June. He picked up his second win of the season three weeks later at the KLN Pro-Am at Perham Lakeside Golf Course. On the season, Berry has claimed 13 top-10 finishes and earned more than $14,000 in winnings.
Posting the second lowest round in wet and windy conditions Tuesday, McDonald earns a second straight trip to the national championship, qualifying a year ago at Woodhill Country Club after leading the championship with nine holes to play.
“It’s been a long couple of days—this is such a big event for us. Leading late last year, the pressure kind of got to me,” McDonald said after his round Tuesday. “This year all I was thinking was to stay in the process and don’t panic. It was probably the best nine holes I’ve played coming in.
“I qualified for nationals in 2011 and hadn’t gotten through since. Not qualifying for seven years after making it my first year eligible was tough. Last year, the way I looked at it was, I’m not going there to qualify, I’m going there to win and I was in contention. It was the same thing this week. The goal should always be to win. If you asked me in the beginning of the season what my goals were, I’d say to get to nationals and contend for player of the year.”
McDonald carded three birdies against one bogey during his opening nine during the afternoon session Tuesday, turning three shots back of Berry’s lead. McDonald would play a steady back nine, rolling in one birdie at the second before a three-putt bogey put him in a tie for second at 2-under 142.
THE 89TH MINNNESOTA PGA PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
THE PRESERVE AT GRAND VIEW LODGE
PEQUOT LAKES, MINN.
6,620 YARDS, PAR 72
TUESDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
1. Don Berry, Edinburgh USA, 70-69—139 (medalist)
T2. Jeff Sorenson, The Minikahda Club, 68-74—142 (qualifier)
T2. Eric Chiles, Chaska TC, 69-73—142 (qualifier)
T2. Scott McDonald, Minnewaska GC, 72-70—142 (qualifier)
T5. Brent Snyder, Troy Burne GC, 68-75—143 (qualifier)
T5. Bill Israelson, Vintage GC, 70-73—143 (qualifier)
T7. Jesse Nelson, The Pines at GVL, 72-72—144 (qualifier)
T7. Corey Johnson, 2nd Swing, 73-71—144 (qualifier)
T7. Mike Barge, Hazeltine Nat’l GC, 75-69—144
T10. Eddie Wynne, University GC, 74-71—145
T10. Jeff Running, Wayzata CC, 71-74—145
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/mnpga19/event/mnpga1928/contest/1/leaderboard.htm