No rust for IMG Academy instructor Nathan Bertsch en route to Florida Open qualifier medalist honors

jdill@bradenton.comJune 24, 2014 

Bertsch

EAST MANATEE -- Nathan Bertsch is like most teaching professionals in the golf industry: He helps other people improve their games, but has virtually no time to play or practice his own.

The Bradenton resident, who has taught golf at IMG Academy since 2008, hasn't played much golf in the past six months, let alone any competitive rounds.

"I have a wife and two kids at home, so that makes it that much more hard for me when I do have a weekend to go and go play in a tournament rather than stay at home with the family," said Bertsch, who only played a few rounds in the last six months.

Despite coming into Monday's Florida Open qualifier with the semblance of rust, Bertsch strung together a 4-under par round to earn medalist honors at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club.

The tournament, which is July 18-20 at Bonita Bay Club in Naples, awarded 11 qualifying berths Monday with two alternate spots.

Bertsch was better than them all with the lone sub-70 round Monday, but it didn't get going until the back nine.

That's where he made five birdies, including ones on Nos. 10 and 11, to jump-start things. The turning point, though, was the solid tee shot he hit on No. 9, when his swing still needed a few adjustments.

Shortly after it clicked on the ninth hole, Bertsch turned it on to secure medalist honors.

"It's just a patience thing," Bertsch said. "Most of the time, it's a timing thing. Timing was off."

The other qualifying spots went to Tampa's Davis Miller (70), Bradenton's Stephen Sowards (70), North Port's Sebastian Mark (70), Bradenton's Tory Henderson (70), Clearwater's Nick Huston (70), Bradenton's Cyril Suk (71), St. Petersburg's Blake Dyer (71), Lakewood Ranch's Mark Cappiello (71), Bradenton's Charles Wang (72) and St. Petersburg's Zachary Zehnder (73).

Zehnder earned the final qualifying berth in a massive 13-for-one playoff.

The sudden-death playoff was broken into three groups (two foursomes and a fivesome) to start. Players went down the par-4 10th hole, with par being the score to advance.

Seven players survived

and headed to the par-3 16th hole. Zehnder secured the last spot with a birdie, with the remaining four players that made par heading forward to the par-4 17th for the two alternate berths.

Eventually, it came down to Bradenton's Tyler Sluman and former Lakewood Ranch and Cardinal Mooney standout Hunter Sagar.

Sluman won the first alternate with a par on the 18th hole after the duo were the only ones to make par on the 17th hole.

But for Sluman, he nearly didn't even make it to the playoff as he had already left the golf course thinking his 73 was out of the running.

"One of my friends called me and told me that there was a chance," said Sluman, who plays at Rollins College in the Orlando area. "He called me and said that there's 13 people for one spot, so I raced back here. Luckily, I got here just in time."

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