Think Young, Play HardDecember 9, 2015

Serving It Up: Daniel Berger

Golf's rookie of the year says he'd rather be Nadal
Photographed by Dom Furore in October at the City of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Tennis Center.
Photographed by Dom Furore in October at the City of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Tennis Center.

I'm proud the players voted me PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. The spotlight is something I always wanted to experience. Any professional athlete who doesn't like the spotlight, well, maybe it's not the right job for them.

Honestly, I wish I were a professional tennis player. I went to the U.S. Open in New York this year after playing in the Barclays tournament. I watched Rafael Nadal play Mardy Fish and watched all the guys practice. I kept thinking, Wow, I really wish that were me. It's fun to see how good they are. I'm sure they say the same thing when they come out and watch us play.

Wanna talk pressure? I was 14 years old picking range balls at the Dye Preserve in Florida. This was a few months after I met one of my oldest friends, Steve Marino. He was 30 at the time and was like 35th on the tour's money list. I challenged him to a game for $500, but I had only $12 on me. If I'd lost, I had no chance of ever paying him. It came down to the final hole, and I beat him. I was going crazy, jumping up and down. He was pissed and challenged me to another four holes and beat me, so I never got paid. But I remember thinking, This is what I want to do. I thrived on that pressure.

My swing is unique. Don't get me wrong. I think Tiger Woods has a pretty swing, but I also think Daniel Berger has a pretty swing. Who cares if it's different than the Adam Scott prototypical golf swing? It's just the way I've been taught.

After I lost in that playoff to Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic last February, I went to dinner with a couple of buddies that night. We went to some restaurant that had like 25 TVs on at the bar, and they were all showing me losing. I'm like, Oh, great. Is this what it's going to be like on TV for the next week? But it was fun.

“I’ve got to work on my backhand if I’m going to switch careers.”

I'm very OCD. I want certain things to be a certain way. When I'm teeing my ball, I don't want any loose pieces of grass around. My room is always neat, and my closet is color-coordinated. I'm very, very organized, and anything that is out of order will throw me off.

I grew up playing almost every sport. I was best at tennis, but I'd go wake-boarding, water skiing. I played competitive soccer, baseball, basketball. There was this one summer when I was 11 that I attended a golf camp. That's when I fell in love with golf.

I'm the type of person who is like, If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right. At 6 in the morning, before school, my dad would take me to the course, and I'd practice. Then after school, I'd head back to the course and practice until the sun set. I did that every school day for as many years as I can remember. But I never watched golf on TV. I was too jealous of them. That's what I wanted to be.

I can dance. But only if I have a few drinks first.


DANIEL BERGER / AGE: 22 / RESIDES: Jupiter, Fla. / FROM: South Florida

NOTED: Sports junkie who still plays everything from soccer to table tennis. His father, Jay, is a former tennis pro who was ranked as high as seventh in the world in 1990 and is currently head of men's tennis for the United States Tennis Association. Daniel played golf at Florida State University, tying for second in the 2013 NCAA Championship. On his way to being named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Berger had two runner-up finishes, six top-10s and was the only first-year pro to qualify for the Tour Championship. Berger finished 11th in the FedEx Cup standings. Past rookie-of-the-year winners include Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Edited By Ron Kaspriske


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