That’s all it took in LPGA Tour prize money for Maple Grove’s Sarah Burnham to squeak inside the ropes Sunday night as the 156th and final player invited to this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“Yeah, it was a wild day,” said her father, Kurt, as he followed Sarah during Thursday’s opening-round 6-over 78 at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Four days before she struck the tournament’s first tee shot, the 23-year-old needed to make a two-putt birdie from 70 feet on the 72nd hole of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give in Grand Rapids, Mich.
She pulled it off, finishing with a 2-under 70 and tying for 39th to earn $13,208 — her first check as a professional golfer after five missed cuts in her rookie season.
“I was home in Atlanta,” said Burnham’s agent, JS Kang. “After she made birdie, I was working the numbers and thought, ‘I think she can get into the KPGM with about $14,000.’ ”
Kang reached out to the LPGA Tour and asked that it send him the updated money list ASAP. But Burnham’s text arrived first: “I’m in!”
“By $3,” Kurt said, shaking his head. “A bunch of us were in Grand Rapids for the tournament and to get together for my dad’s 80th birthday. We knew it would be close. As we’re landing back in Minneapolis, I look at my phone and Sarah texted that she made it.”
By the price of a bottle of water at Hazeltine.
“I was in East Lansing at my apartment because I just graduated in May, and I have the apartment until August,” said Burnham, the only Michigan State Spartan to win two Big Ten Player of the Year awards. “I knew about 7:30 that I was in. I was so excited, I screamed and was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I get to play in my home state.’ ”
And sleep in her old bed under the roof with her dad, mom Patty and 17-year-old sister Amy, a senior-to-be at Wayzata and an early commitment to play Division II golf at Concordia (St. Paul).
They were among 50 friends and family members who showed up at 7:40 a.m. to march alongside Sarah for the next five hours. Uncle Kraig, cousin Kailey, grandma Karen and grandpa Dave also were in the pack.
Burnham missed the first fairway and hit only six of 14 all day. She missed the green and would hit only 11. She three-putted and would need 30 more. She made double bogey and would make two more on Nos. 11 and 13.
“I just felt a little nervous pressure throughout the day,” she said.
Burnham worked her score to as low as 1 over with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth and three of her best shots on the par-4 10th. She played the next six holes in 5 over before reaching 17 and creating her “coolest moment of the day” and her loudest crowd reaction by rolling in a 30-footer for a 2.
Burnham lettered in golf six times at Wayzata. She was all-state four times and a state champion in 2013.
“She beat me when she was 13,” Kurt said.
“All I remember,” she said, “is beating him at Pheasant Acres.”
“That’s when I decided I’d just carry her bag and watch her play,” said Kurt, who turned his basement into basically a giant golf simulator with high-speed cameras to help craft that pro-caliber swing.
Kurt was on the bag in 2015 when Sarah played in her other major, the U.S. Women’s Open. She missed the cut. He was on the bag through two rounds of Q-school last fall.
“She took second place in Stage 2 and I was like … ‘She might have a chance here,’ ” Kurt said. “So we called in a professional, Micky Millhouse, a caddie from Interlachen. She’s got another good one in Ben Kitts.”
In 2009, 13-year-old Sarah was standing in the gallery on the 18th tee at Hazeltine when Tiger Woods and Y.E. Yang made their way to the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship. Sarah was starstruck being that close to Tiger.
“You know, it didn’t even cross my mind to become a professional golfer until I was probably a sophomore in college,” she said. “I never really thought I would be good enough to play at this level. But I just kept working hard at it.”
Mark Craig is a reporter for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @markcraigNFL