I'm not ashamed of my background." That's not a remark one expects from the winner of a national golf tournament, but David Berganio Jr., 24, offered it last Saturday in Brighton, Colo., after winning his second U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Reporters were delving into Berganio's hardscrabble childhood in the projects of Los Angeles, but Berganio, a senior at Arizona, wanted to stress that his bloodlines were not a burden but a blessing. "It helps me to know what it is to grind, to suffer a little bit," he said.
Yes, he said "suffer." Berganio was born to a teenage mother; his old man had already been sent to Vietnam and would have little contact with his son. The youngster spent his formative years with his mother in the San Fernando Gardens housing project in Pacoima, Calif. Berganio was 12 when his parish priest gave him some starter clubs and took him to a par-3 course. "I didn't live the country-club scene," Berganio says. "Where I grew up, you didn't walk around with your tail between your legs."
And you didn't get far with country-club manners, either. Last week he raised eyebrows when he designated himself the tournament favorite and offered a playground-style boast or two. "I'm just confident," he said later, trying hard not to appear cocky. "I can play Ping-Pong, I can shoot pool, I can pitch pennies."
"He is cocky," said Oklahoma State senior Brandon Knight, who lost to Berganio, 2 and 1, in the final at Riverdale Dunes Golf Course. "That's what makes him good."
The Amateur Public Links Championship certainly brings out the best in Berganio. He beat Michael Combs for the title two years ago; he was medalist in 1992, before losing a first-round match; and his 136 over 36 holes of qualifying at Riverdale Dunes earned him medalist honors again. In match play Berganio's closest brush with defeat was a Friday-morning thriller with Indiana senior Jody Roudebush, who finally succumbed on the second extra hole.
In the 36-hole final Berganio led one up after the morning round, but in the afternoon Berganio made four birdies to go 5 up, which proved too much for Knight to overcome.
Asked what winning the Public Links again meant to him, Berganio allowed that the first was the sweetest, but "there's nothing wrong with stacking them up, you know what I mean?" The pile will grow no higher, though, because Berganio plans to go for his Tour card at the PGA Tour Qualifying School in October. His immediate goal is to be chosen for the Walker Cup team that will face Great Britain and Ireland in Edina, Minn., later this summer. "I'd like to look back when I'm 50 or 60 and say I was a Walker Cupper and one of the best of my day."
More practically, Berganio wants to earn enough money in golf to make life more comfortable for his mother, his stepfather of 21 years and his younger brother and sister, all of whom now live in Sylmar, Calif. And just in case somebody thought prosperity might change him, Berganio vows not to forget where he came from: "I'll never get too good for my friends back home."