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Sports Heroes Who Served: Famous Golfer Was a World War II Marine

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Patty Berg, a founder and the first president of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, won 15 major titles and set a record that still stands for the most major wins by a female golfer. She was also a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve during World War II. 

A person wearing a Marine uniform smiles for the camera in a black and white photo.
Patty Berg
Famed golfer Patty Berg poses for a photo in her Marine Corps uniform.
Photo By: Marine Corps
VIRIN: 430727-O-D0439-007Y
Berg was born in Minneapolis on Feb. 13, 1918. Her father, Herman Berg Sr., was a grain merchant and member of the Chicago Board of Trade and Minneapolis Board of Trade. Both he and Berg's mother, Theresa Berg, supported their daughter’s athletic aspirations.  

During her teen years, Berg played quarterback on the 50th Street Tigers football team in Minneapolis. She was the only girl on a team that included Bud Wilkinson, who went on to become a football coach for the University of Oklahoma.  

Also during her teen years, she played amateur golf and then professional golf. In 1934 she began her amateur golf career and won the Minneapolis City Championship and by 1938 was the Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year – the first of three times she was awarded that honor. 

A person swings a golf club in a black and white photo.
Patty Berg
Patty Berg, a founder and the first president of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, plays golf.
Photo By: Library of Congress
VIRIN: 510110-O-D0439-002Y
A person holds a trophy in a black and white photo.
Patty Berg
Pioneering female golfer Patty Berg holds a golf trophy.
Photo By: Library of Congress
VIRIN: 510110-O-D0439-001Y
Berg joined the Marine Corps at age 25, serving from 1943 to 1945. Already a world-famous golfer, the news media was interested in learning why she signed up. 

In an interview with a reporter from The Pittsburgh Press newspaper, Berg said she chose the Marine Corps because her childhood heroes, Bernie Bierman and Paul Kennedy, were Marines serving during World War II. Bierman had been the head football coach at the University of Minnesota, and Kennedy was Berg's cousin.  

During the war, Berg played benefit golf matches to raise money and awareness for the war effort. In 1944, she purportedly raised $3 million for the war, a large sum of money in those days. 

She was also a Marine Corps procurement officer in the Eastern Procurement Division in Philadelphia. 

A person is sworn into the military in a black and white photo.
Patty Berg
Patty Berg is sworn into the Marine Corps Reserve by Marine Corps Capt. Arthur J. Murphy.
Photo By: Marine Corps
VIRIN: 430727-O-D0439-002Y

During her career, Berg won 15 major championships: the U.S. Women's Open (1946); the Western Open (1941, 1943, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1957, 1958); and Titleholders (1937, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1953, 1955, 1957). 

She shared a tip with golf enthusiasts: "Don't rush. Play one shot at a time just like you live one day at a time. And don't think beyond the ball. The minute you think beyond the ball, that's when you see all the trouble." 

A group of people (two civilians and sailors) hold golf clubs.
Patty Berg
Patty Berg, left, shows Navy recruits how to play golf at San Diego Naval Training Station, Calif., Feb. 21, 1941.
Photo By: Navy
VIRIN: 410221-O-D0439-002Y

When Berg was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame, she quipped: "I'm very happy I gave up football."  

The association now gives the annual Patty Berg Award to the person who makes the greatest contribution to women's golf. 

Berg died in 2006 at the age of 88.

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Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-904

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