Patty Berg, the homegrown women’s golf pioneer, likely honed her swing long ago in her southwest Minneapolis backyard.
Jim Vetsch, who owns Berg’s childhood home, has seen the evidence. “We’d find old golf balls, nestled in the roots of ancient lilac bushes,” he said.
Vetsch’s Dutch Colonial, at the corner of 50th Street and Colfax Avenue S. in Minneapolis’ Lynnhurst neighborhood, was built in 1919, the year after Berg was born. The golf phenom, who went on to win 88 titles and found the Ladies Professional Golf Association, lived in the house with her parents and three siblings during her early and teenage years.
She was a tomboy who quarterbacked the neighborhood football team, the 50th Street Tigers, until she turned her focus to golf at age 13. Just three years later, in 1934, she began her amateur career and won her first title, the Minneapolis City Championship.
Vetsch has an old black-and-white photo of the freckled teen champ taken that year; she’s cradling a small dog in her arms and seated in the family living room. “She posed for a picture next to the radiator cover, and it’s still in that spot,” he noted.
Vetsch and his wife, Millie, bought the house in 1977, when their two sons were teenagers. By that time, the Berg family was long gone. “But older neighbors who remembered her always said, ‘Oh, you’re living in Patty’s house,’ ” Vetsch recalled. (Berg died in 2006 at age 88.)
The family discovered other Berg memorabilia during their years of living in the home. In one bedroom closet was a removable section of wooden flooring. “It was a great secret hiding place,” Vetsch said. “I was rummaging around and found Patty Berg artifacts — birthday cards and little notes.”
The house needed some TLC when the Vetsches bought it, but they liked the classic center-hall floorplan and generous-sized rooms. “We loved the space. My wife, who studied design, said, ‘It’s got good bones.’ ”
Over the years, they made many updates and improvements. They carpeted and repainted, added an island in the kitchen and an additional garage. But the house’s “good bones” remain largely unchanged. “It’s true to the original architecture,” Vetsch said.
The kitchen still has a working double oven that dates back to the 1950s. It’s not a modern trophy kitchen but a homey, Grandma-style one. “It’s an old-fashioned kitchen,” Vetsch said, with wood cabinets stained walnut, laminate countertops and vinyl flooring — “not stainless steel and quartz.”
The house has 2,750 finished square feet, including four bedrooms on the second floor, two baths plus a lower-level office and exercise room. There are two garages, with space for three cars, a single attached and a double detached. The private, fenced backyard includes a patio and a low-maintenance perennial garden.
It’s been a great family home, said Vetsch, but after 38 years, the couple have decided to downsize to a condo in Eagan. “I loved living there,” he said of the house, with its close proximity to Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet. “We raised our children there, and our three grandchildren. The grandchildren hold it more dear ... one grandson came to say goodbye to the house and had a tear in his eye.”
But it’s time for another family to make it their home. “You hold on for so many sentimental reasons, but we don’t need almost 3,000 square feet of space,” he said.
Nancy Walker of Coldwell Banker Burnet has the listing; 612-799-2768.