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The mention of Patty Berg’s name brings a smile to the face of anyone who ever heard her vivaciously conclude every speech with the words, “God bless you all, God bless the LPGA and God bless America!”
That was the essence of this freckle-faced sparkplug from Minneapolis who was the quarterback in organized sandlot football, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for a three-year tour of duty during World War II, amassed 28 amateur golf titles in seven years and went on to become a co-founder of the LPGA.
Berg became an amateur superstar when she won the 1934 Minneapolis City Championship to kick off her golf career, adding the 1938 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, three Titleholders Championships from 1937-39, the 1938 Women’s Western Amateur, two Women’s Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championships (1938-39), two South Atlantic Amateur (Sally) titles (1938-39), five Doherty Cup Championships (1936-40) and membership on the 1936 and 1938 U.S. Curtis Cup teams.
Her first five professional wins came before the formation of the Women’s Professional Golf Association, which preceded the LPGA. She recorded a total of 22 professional wins prior to the start of the LPGA, with six wins on the WPGA in 1948 and 1949. When the LPGA was formed in 1950, Berg served as the association’s first president from 1950-1952.
From a span from 1948 to 1962, she won 44 professional titles and three Vare Trophies. By the end of her career, she was credited with 60 professional victories with 15 major championships, including the 1946 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. She became the first woman to record an ace during a USGA competition with her hole-in-one during the 1959 U.S. Women’s Open.
But while Berg’s ferocity as a player was well known, her colleagues fondly recall her thousands of “Patty Berg Hit Parade” golf clinics and exhibitions for sponsor, Wilson Sporting Goods, which she represented from her professional debut in 1940 until her death at age 88 in 2006. Berg was a demonstrative and engaging performer in an estimated 16,000 golf clinics. In her later years, she often wore comical hats and delivered corny jokes as she displayed a variety of golf shots.
As one of the first women professionals to earn a golf equipment sponsorship, it was Berg who marched other Wilson-sponsored pros through the routine of holding golf clinics throughout the nation with a Marine’s precision of drills and orchestrated jokes. The young pros under Berg’s tutelage, such as future LPGA Hall of Famers Kathy Whitworth and Carol Mann, were instructed to show up on time for the clinics with shined shoes and pressed clothing. Even as recently as the 1990s, Berg still appeared each year at the U.S. Women’s Open Championship to host her “All-American” golf clinics, using Whitworth and other pros to demonstrate shots.
Berg was inducted into the LPGA, LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals and World Golf Halls of Fame, and was the recipient of countless awards, including the 1959 William D. Richardson Award, the 1963 Bob Jones Award, and the 1975 Ben Hogan Award.