Biershenk, 37, finds way back to Nationwide Tour
Like many U.S. companies, Biershenk Golf Investments, LLC, is in the midst of a recovery after some rough years.
BGI was founded in 2007 as a way to support to the golf career of Tommy Biershenk, who at 37 years old is resolute in his quest for his first PGA Tour card.
Nationwide Tour players to watch
Last year’s Nationwide Tour class was the youngest, and one of the best, in the tour’s history. Jhonattan Vegas, Keegan Bradley, Tommy Gainey, Chris Kirk, Jamie Lovemark and Kevin Chappell were among the 25 graduates. This looks to be another exciting year for the PGA Tour’s secondary circuit. Ty Tryon, Erik Compton, Billy Hurley and Camilo Villegas’ former caddie, Brett Waldman, all earned Nationwide status at last year’s Q-School. PGA Tour regulars like Will MacKenzie, John Merrick, John Mallinger and Jeff Quinney may make appearances on the tour after poor PGA Tour seasons.
The company's namesake is back on the Nationwide Tour this year, eight years after he last had full status there. His recent form suggests he has the potential to be among the 25 players who'll earn PGA Tour cards at season's end. His background guarantees that a successful year would make him one of the tour's feel-good stories.
The Nationwide Tour season begins with this week's Panama Claro Championship.
Even though it was away from the galleries and television cameras of the PGA and Nationwide tours, Biershenk had the best year of his career in 2010, earning more than $100,000 to finish second on the eGolf Professional Tour's money list. He placed in the top six in seven of 15 events, and had a four-event stretch where he finished no worse than third and was a combined 87 under par (66.4 scoring average).
The good year ended in heartbreak, though, as Biershenk missed his PGA Tour card by a single shot at Q-School.
"I had to shed a few tears because I worked hard and felt like it was my time," the former Clemson player said. "After a few minutes of being a baby, I had to make myself smile. I had to be grateful for getting my (Nationwide) status back, and my job is to make the most of it. "
Biershenk last played the Nationwide Tour in '03, earning just $11,418 in 25 events. He walked away from the game after that season, and sold golf carts through a company he started, East Coast Custom Carts. That venture lasted about a year.
"When he lost his status, it was, ‘What am I going to do?’" his instructor, Ricky Sullivan, said. "He got into that mood that I’m going to do every little thing I can to put food on the table."
Biershenk returned to competitive golf after about a year, but continued working odd jobs to support his family. The constant distractions kept Biershenk from realizing his potential, Sullivan said. After struggling on the eGolf and Hooters tours in '09, Biershenk worked on a friend's North Carolina farm, doing some "country boy, redneck farming," to raise money for the 2010 season.
"It was certainly a stepping stone in my life," Biershenk said. "It allowed me to appreciate golf as a job. I learned that if I wanted to make it playing golf, I had to work extremely hard to achieve my goals, through hard work and determination."
Sullivan helped convince Biershenk to drop the side projects, telling him that he could earn exponentially more money if he focused on his golf career. That focus is one of the reasons for Biershenk's success last year. Steady ballstriking also was key to his low scores, Sullivan said.
"When he got Nationwide status, he was one of these wild guys," Sullivan said. "He might shoot 77 or he might shoot 66. He was not what you would call a pure ballstriker. He was what you’d call a talented guy who could do anything with the golf ball, but never knew exactly where it was going."
He's capable of good stretches, like the four-week run he put together on last year's eGolf tour, when he makes putts. Sullivan said Biershenk missed 62 birdie putts of 15 feet or less over six rounds. He made just 10 bogeys in 108 holes at Q-School; only nine players made fewer. His 18 birdies for the week ranked 103rd in the field, though.
Biershenk said he's moved past that Q-School setback, and is excited to begin his Nationwide season this week.
"It was a tough road for the last couple years, but fortunately I had a good year (in 2010) and gained some confidence," Biershenk said. "I feel like I'm playing better golf now than I've ever played."
If he can keep it going, look for Biershenk to be one of the stars on this year's Nationwide Tour.