She was a consummate entertainer. Everybody had a good day when Patty Berg gave a clinic. The “Patty Hit Parade” as it was called included jokes that would leave Bob Hope holding his sides, along with some gags, like tilting the bill of her visor to the right to hit a fade and to the left to hit a draw. And there were golf shots galore – high, low, left, right, straight and oh so incredibly long. Berg packed a powerful punch, one that impressed all who saw her. By the end of her career, Berg estimated that she had introduced over half a million new golfers to the game.
But there were always a couple of other things at a Patty Berg clinic. As fellow LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy King remembers, “She always put up little American flags at her clinics (to mark off the hitting area). And she always ended her talks with ‘God bless you. And God bless America.’”
This wasn’t an attempt to appeal to an audience. Berg was, according to King, “A great patriot who loved America.”
But she was so much more. On this Memorial Day, as we honor those in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice, it is important to remember those who served in other capacities – people like First Lieutenant Patricia Berg, United States Marine Corp, who served as an officer in the Eastern Procurement Division in Philadelphia, Pa. from 1942 through the end of hostilities in 1945.
First Lt. Berg had a difficult task. Procurement was a fancy word for recruiting. Patty was one of many officers charged with going to college campuses in search of officer candidates who were ready, willing and able to enter combat training immediately.
According to the late Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Moody, USMC Historical Division, “By February 1942, Marine Corps procurement teams had begun visiting the nation's accredited colleges to display the advantages of their particular branch of the service. In general, these teams were warmly received by educators in every part of the country; but the students were not overeager in their response to them. A member of one team complained that the average college student simply did not realize that his country was fighting for its survival.
“This may have been true in some instances; but it is more likely that these young men felt that the Marine Corps did not offer the same advantages as the Navy or Army. The most adventurous, the kind of men who a generation before would have fought to become "Devildogs," now were enrolling in the aviation cadet programs. The lure of the wild blue yonder was claiming some of the best juniors and seniors; and Marine Aviation at this time was obtaining the majority of its pilots through the Naval Aviation Cadet program.”
Among those teams, trying to attract 17- to 27-year-old men to join the Few and the Proud was the spunky, redhead 24-year-old golfer from Minnesota who burst onto the scene by winning the 1934 Minneapolis City Championship and captured a total of 28 amateur titles. But as anyone who ever saw her in person knew, Berg was also the consummate salesperson, the kind of close-the-deal dynamo who could get you to believe you could do anything by the end of a lesson.
Her charisma led to countless officers signing on to become Marines. Many of them helped free the world. Many never came home. Those are the men whose memories we salute on the last Monday in May every year.
How well did First Lt. Berg do as a Marine officer? Her duty records show exemplary service and reviews at every level. And according to Lt Col. Moody, “Once the wheels began to turn, (the procurement division) ran so efficiently that by 1944, the program was turning out more officers than the Marine Corp needed.”
After her service, Berg won 60 professional titles, 15 major championships and was one of the 13 Founders of the LPGA. She was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1967 and the World Golf Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1974.
But perhaps her most treasured honor came in 2003 when First Lt. Patricia Berg became the first female ever inducted into the United States Marine Corp Sports Hall of Fame.
Berg passed away in 2006 at age 88 in Coral Gables, Florida.
“Patty was somewhat regimented in those clinics,” fellow LPGA Founder Shirley Spork remembers with a smile. Like most Marines, it seemed like Berg never left the Corp entirely. “She always honored our military. We all did.”
On a day when we all honor our military as well, we throw Patty’s words back at her. God bless Patty Berg. And God bless America.