At 96 years old, Keystone Resort co-founder Bill Bergman sinks hole-in-one
KEYSTONE — After the collection of Bergman Boys golfers passed the cellphone to the man of the hour, Keystone Resort co-founder Bill Bergman sent them into a collective laugh.
“I didn’t before, but now I believe in miracles,” Bergman said once the phone reached him at his friend’s home near the Keystone Ranch.
The “miracle” the 96-year-old Summit County sporting legend was referring to was his hole-in-one a couple of days prior at the Keystone River Course. On the 15th hole — a true uphill mountain golf par 3 he’s played oh so many times — Bergman hit a 4-iron toward the flag 110 yards away. From the red forward, or “ladies” tees as Bergman described it, he saw his ball disappear from a vantage point where the pin is barely visible.
As he and the three others in his foursome — Jerry Karl, Wilson Strong and Bruce Williams — drove their carts and then walked up toward the green, they spotted a ball resting in the hole. It was Bergman’s.
The Summit County pioneer and former British Amateur and Senior Open competitor estimates it is the fourth hole-in-one of his life since he took up the sport more than eight decades ago as an 11-year-old caddy who had to clean the clubhouse before he played.
“It was a good shot — went 30 yards and then rolled for 100 and something,” Bergman said tongue-in-cheek as his friends laughed.
Along with being known as a forefather of Summit County’s modern ski community, Bergman is regarded by his peers and friends as a godfather of Summit golfing. Karl described him as an energetic and blunt yet gentlemanly “grand master” of the 16-member Bergman Boys group.
Bergman’s golf buddies say he’s a leader who has kept his wit despite his age and someone who is always working on something new with his swing. He’s also always glad to show someone else a thing or two to improve their game.
“He’s an inspiration because you can be 96 years old and have 98% of your mental capacity still with you,” Williams said. “He’s fun to talk to. It seems every day when I play golf, I think back to a couple of things he told me to do 15 years ago that still work.”
All these year’s later, Bergman’s golfing resume includes such memories as playing in the 1961 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach in California that was won by golfing great Jack Nicklaus. But of the thousands upon thousands of rounds he’s played in his life, it was this week’s hole-in-one that Bergman described as “a miracle of miracles.”
“It was a fantastic shot,” Karl said.
“It took us to walk out on the green to see it,” said Strong, a longtime member of the 16-golfer group who plays the first tee times at Keystone most every summer day. With all the regulations for COVID-19, they had PVC piping in the hole so we could see the ball sitting up.”
Bergman’s golfing friends say his eloquent, charming and outgoing demeanor has made him the core of the Bergman Boys group through the years. Though he isn’t able to hit the ball nearly as far as he used to, the Bergman Boys say one thing that hasn’t changed is Bergman’s wit, personality, and daily discipline and drive to be the best he can be.
While commiserating with his fellow golfers over cake and refreshments on Thursday afternoon, Bergman reminded them it was only a half-hour until he’d depart for the Silverthorne Recreation Center for his daily exercise ritual. Karl said that a few years back, Bergman was working out “like a mad man” in the gym, doing his best to stay strong and hit the golf ball long despite Father Time’s best efforts.
“You’re gonna lose that swing speed no matter what,” Bergman said.
On Thursday morning, Keystone celebrated Bergman’s accomplishment by opening up the Keystone Ranch course — which has been closed all summer — for the resort’s co-founder and 11 more of the Bergman Boys. It’s the same course Bergman was flown out to in the early ’80s to witness its grand opening.
Strong said the ability of the Bergman Boys to play together over the past couple of months at the Keystone River course has made their summer despite the pandemic. And their group’s namesake has been there for the majority of the outings and golfed with as much verve as he ever has — even if he is playing from the forward tees.
“It was a joy to see that happen,” Williams said.
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