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PGA Championship ALEX BURGE

Bloomington native Alex Burge, right, celebrates the 2017 PGA Championship title with Justin Thomas, second from left, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. Burge is part of the golf division sports agent staff at Excel Sports Management, which represents Thomas.

BLOOMINGTON — Alex Burge was standing near the scoring area Sunday at the Masters. With cellphones not permitted at Augusta National Golf Club, it was difficult to tell what was happening on the back nine.

Then a manual scoreboard nearby showed Tiger Woods had birdied the 16th hole.

"Everyone went berserk and you kind of had the feeling he had it locked up," said Burge, a Bloomington native.

Woods' victory, his 15th in a major championship and first in 11 years, has set the sports world on fire. Burge knows he's lucky to experience it in ways most can't, especially for a 26-year-old.

Burge is a sports agent for Excel Sports Management. His boss, Mark Steinberg, is Woods' longtime agent. Besides Woods, the firm has several other high-profile PGA Tour players such as No. 2-ranked Justin Rose, No. 5 Justin Thomas and No. 16 Matt Kuchar.

"A sports agent in golf is kind of everything," said Burge. "We do their endorsement deals and try to handle basically everything off the course to make it where the clients focus on just playing. We handle the media, whatever it might be. We have 20 clients globally, half in the U.S. and half in Europe."

Burge was in the famous Butler Cabin afterward as Woods donned his fifth green jacket. 

"It was amazing," said Burge. "I was involved in some of the post-round stuff and got to see Tiger afterwards and congratulate him. It was very cool, and to see somebody accomplish what they've really put their mind to is neat."

This is a much quieter week for Burge. He returned to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to spend the Easter holiday.

"I don't get back that often. It's fun to see family and friends," he said. "I have a little nephew who is 3 years old, so we wrestle and run around and stuff. It's fun."

Burge was a top youth golfer growing up, finishing third in the 2009 Class 2A State Tournament for Bloomington High School, and earned a golf scholarship to the University of Illinois. 

He played in three NCAA Tournaments with the Illini, including a 2013 second-place finish. Burge earned his bachelor's degree in business administration and master's degree in sports management from Illinois.

Burge contemplated trying to make the PGA Tour. Illini coach Mike Small presented another avenue through his connection with Steinberg, a Peoria native who also is an Illinois graduate.

"Obviously, Coach Small was a great sounding board for me," said Burge. "I happened to get in touch with Mark Steinberg and things went from there."

Burge got a position with Excel Sports Management's golf division. He was based in Jupiter, Fla., for about a year before moving to the firm's headquarters in New York City.

This year, Burge said he will travel to 15-20 tournaments and assist Excel clients at those events. Sunday night he will leave for San Antonio for a Web.com tournament where his former Illini teammate and current client, Dylan Meyer, is playing next week.

"Obviously it's different than competing, but it's been a great transition just because of my competitive past," said Burge. "Justin Thomas and I have known each other since playing the Plantation Tour events together (as youths).

"With also Daniel Berger and Ollie Schiederjans, we have a lot of clients around my age that at the outset made for a smooth transition where I was more comfortable than I thought I might be."

Even living in Manhattan, a block from Wall Street, hasn't been too difficult.

"I do the subway commute (to midtown) every morning and have the routine down," said Burge. "It's very easy. It was definitely a bit of cultural shock at first because it's not Central Illinois, but I've adapted to it and am really enjoying it."

Burge knows getting to work for Steinberg is a dream come true.

"Mark Steinberg is kind of the one guy you think of when you think of golf agents," he said. "The opportunity to learn from him and work under his guidance — he's done pretty much everything there is to do in golf — it's been fun to learn from the best."

The next major is the PGA Championship, which will be a home game for Burge as it is being held at Bethpage Black in suburban New York City on May 16-19.

Woods won the U.S. Open there in 2002. The New York crowd pulling for Woods should create something that might rival Sunday's electricity in Augusta.

"Everyone says Tiger moves the (needle) in golf, and it's incredibly true," said Burge. "Over the last 4-5 years (his absence) has allowed some other players to turn into stars, the Justin Thomases and Dustin Johnsons and these guys. Having Tiger back in the fold, competing and beating these guys, is awesome and great for the game."

Burge will be right there to soak it all in.

Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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