Back in the summer of 2000, Kevin VandenBerg swept Michigan’s three major amateur tournaments: the Michigan Amateur, Golf Association of Michigan Championship and the Michigan Mid-Amateur. He still remembers a conversation from the next spring. A younger player approached VandenBerg, in his mid 30s at the time, and questioned why, after that hat trick, he hadn’t turned pro – everyone just assumed he would but VandenBerg, who played college golf and baseball at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and was nearly drafted as a catcher, never had those pro aspirations.
Fast forward to 2021 when VandenBerg turned 55 and entered the senior amateur division. He still harbors no pro dreams, but there is something else now.
“I know I’d like to become one of the better players in what I call the senior circuit, that’s what I’d like to do,” he said. “I’m just trying to focus on my game, take care of the things I can do and improve my game the best I can.”
You get there by playing tournaments. Lots and lots of tournaments. In 2023, VandenBerg, a money manager who owns his own company, Apogee Investment Management, teed it up in competition 44 times between Golfweek senior events, Society of Senior events, local tournaments and USGA qualifiers.
Plus, he said, “I played more in 2022.”
But while 2022 ended with VandenBerg runner-up to Rusty Strawn for Golfweek Player of the Year honors in the Senior division (players aged 55-64), VandenBerg did one better in 2023 and took the title for himself. He finished 144 points ahead of Bob Royak, winner of the 2019 U.S. Senior Amateur, courtesy of a T-2 finish at the Ralph Bogart Tournament at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida. He knew he needed a finish of third place or better at Copperhead to top Royak.
“I didn’t look at the scoreboard until the last day we were on 17,” VandenBerg said, “and I looked at the scoreboard and I think I was fourth or tied for third. I knew I needed to make a birdie on one of the last two holes, probably, and I made a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole and that put me over the top.”
VandenBerg, now 57, was motivated by the realization he had a limited window of time on the low end of the senior age bracket.
“I wanted to try and play in as much as I could to try and take advantage of it,” he said, “so I just wanted to play in stuff when I’m earlier and when I’m healthier.”
Knowing his health would play a big…