Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Golfweek Super Senior National Championship: Mark Burden’s golf life spans ACC’s golden era to golf dad to senior circuit drop-in

By admin Jul11,2024

Mark Burden’s bag of “it’s a small world” golf stories includes some doozies. Part of it might be that Burden has a better eye for detail than most – a better recall, a more sincere appreciation, certainly a deeper knowledge of the game (especially at the amateur level) – but the stories are still tremendous.

Once a small-town Midwestern kid, then an ACC golfer and now a Northwestern Mutual financial adviser who can drop into a national senior amateur event seemingly effortlessly, Burden has touched all parts of golf, from competitor to golf dad. And he still reveres the game, albeit from his corner of the world – i.e., the Atlanta metro.

At 67, Burden is unlikely to log many miles or hotel nights for senior golf, but when it comes near his Atlanta home, Burden is in the mix. He skipped the practice round at Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta before the Golfweek Super Senior, Legends & Super Legends National Championship, but in Tuesday’s first round, he birdied his first three holes. He was still 3 under after 12 and leading the Super Senior division.

“I was concentrating really well,” Burden said. “I was in it and I was thinking and I wasn’t overthinking.”

Scores: Golfweek Super Senior, Legends and Super Legends National Championship

Burden thinks he lost that thought process on the 13th tee, where he proceeded to dunk his tee shot in the water, hit the next one long and miss a 4-footer for double bogey. He followed up the triple with two more bogeys and ended his day with 2-over 74, two shots behind division leader Emile Vaughan.

“I’m an interloper on this senior circuit,” Burden joked, noting his lack of national starts.

Find Burden in Georgia State Golf Association events – he made the match-play bracket at the Super Senior Match Play in April – or anything else in the greater metro area, like next week’s Crabapple Senior Invitational, a four-ball event at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.

“It’s like studying for a test,” he said of trying to keep his game sharp while still devoting energy to work and other parts of his life. “You’re trying to figure out how much time you can devote to not only this but other things and it be as efficient as possible.”

Burden’s roots are in Clinton, Iowa, a city of 25,000 people on the Iowa-Illinois border. He learned to play with his dad and older brother, Joe, who went on to a standout career at the University of Illinois as the younger Burden watched closely. Mark, six years Joe’s junior, was an Iowa State Junior Amateur champion himself, and winning the Iowa State Junior PGA qualified him for the Junior World Championship in San Diego. He roomed with Rick Smith, now a nationally recognized instructor, and met future college teammate Mike Forgash.

In 1975, Mark Burden landed on the roster at Duke. He played four years, was captain for two, and won’t ever forget the experience – particularly his first college start, when he warmed up between a couple of Wake Forest stalwarts, Jay Haas and Curtis Strange.

“It was a great experience,” Burden said of those years. “I struggled with my game, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because you come back and fall in love with it again.”

Post-Duke, Burden, who had graduated with a degree in history, began working for Northwestern Mutual. Searching for something other than daily-fee golf, Burden fell in with a group of other young professionals and joined East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The course opened to walk-and-carry players at 2 p.m., for a reduced rate, so Burden and his crew would be waiting on the first tee by 1:59.

“I really got my game back there playing, it was so much fun,” he said. “I also had to kind of understand what golf is really all about and kind of put it in perspective.”

The 1980s and ‘90s were like a second wind in Burden’s golf life. “You sober up from that whole, ‘I’ve got to shoot 68 every time,’” he said, but he also scored a breakthrough at the hands of instructor Mike Adams. A few small tips clicked and Burden “started ripping it.”

The glory days of that era, pre-family life, included a trip to the 1986 U.S. Mid-Amateur, where Burden match play.

“To play really good golf, you have to be in balance,” Burden said. “What I mean by that is if you have a family, you have to be dedicated to them, you have to be grinding at the office so then golf can complement those things. You really appreciate it.”

Burden’s two sons, Quinn and Owen, were both college athletes. Quinn ran track at Georgia while Owen played four years of college golf at Furman from 2018 to 2022. Golf-dad life suited Burden so well that it moves him to tears to talk about it.

Mark Burden, right, with son Owen after Owen's recent hole-in-one (his third) in Cashiers, North Carolina. (Photo submitted)Mark Burden, right, with son Owen after Owen's recent hole-in-one (his third) in Cashiers, North Carolina. (Photo submitted)

Mark Burden, right, with son Owen after Owen’s recent hole-in-one (his third) in Cashiers, North Carolina. (Photo submitted)

In terms of this upcoming generation of players, he brags equally about Owen – who went on to earn a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt, pass his CPA exam and get a job with Ernst and Young in Charlotte, North Carolina – and Owen’s teammates and junior golf contemporaries. Burden knows all their stats and whereabouts.

He heaps praise on the junior program at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, where Owen and his friends were welcomed into the game. Mark remains a member at Cherokee and has won the club’s senior championship eight times.

On a national scale, Burden qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2013 and 2015, making match play both times. Those are just two more chapters in Burden’s long and colorful history in a game that has shaped his life profoundly.

“The game is so special to me,” he said. “It took me from small-town Iowa to here so to me, it’s just the greatest game. It’s the best fraternity you would ever get the chance to join.”

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