Georgia golfer Burger excited for next step after NCAA finish

ATHENS -- She took a second to compose herself.

After a tap-in par -- and there were so many of those -- on her final hole on Friday, Emilie Burger turned her back to the hole, leaning against the flagstick, and looked away while one of her playing partners putted.

"I had to kind of pull myself together," she said.

It wasn't until she stood over the short finishing putt that the moment reached her. Her last putt as an amateur, her last putt of college, her last putt as a Bulldog. Somewhere in the crowd someone barked. The perks of playing your final hole on your home course at the University of Georgia.

"When I went to tap-out, I was like, 'Man, this kind of stinks.' It's been fun," Burger said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it. I've enjoyed being a Bulldog and was blessed to be here. I was nervous. I just wanted to get up there and tap it in. I was nervous standing over that putt. It probably didn't look like it, but I wanted to get up, get over it, tap it in and get out of there."

There weren't tears, and after the moment on the green, the former Mill Creek golfer and only member of the Georgia women's golf team to qualify of the NCAA Championship returned to her smiling self. Hugging many members of her assembled gallery, family, friends, former coaches. She finished well off the lead and never shot a round under par in her final four collegiate rounds. She finished plus-14 for a tournament won by a freshman well under par.

But every day she showed up. Every day she tried to improve. Every day she enjoyed what would soon be her career.

"The last hole it kind of hits you in the face, like, 'Whoa, it is over,'" said her coach Josh Brewer. "I know she's sad inside, but also when she wakes up tomorrow morning she has that new chapter and an exciting chapter for her because it's a little bit of work now."

When Burger woke up this morning, she officially began the steps to become a professional golfer. She also had no plans to play golf for a couple of days.

"I am done with the golf for like, umm, three days," she said. "I am taking three days off at least. You need those breaks."

She plans to try to qualify for the U.S. Open next week in North Carolina as a professional and with better results. This is a week she can fall back on. Playing through the struggles and disappointments.

"Every time I go out I try to make it a learning experience," Burger said. "Whether I win the golf tournament or I finish pretty much last, every time you want to go out and learn something new. I think this week has really taught me to continue to stay patient and just enjoy the process."

She'll play her first Symetra Tour tournament in June on what will certainly be an easier course. It'll be her first real day of work. And good or bad, happy or sad, she usually just needs those few seconds she took Friday to return herself to the smiling Burger who won two tournaments this season playing for Georgia, who qualified for the NCAA Championships, who was named All-American four times in college and never missed a match. And the same smiling Burger who shook off missed putt after missed putt and managed to find a bit of fun even as she slipped down the leaderboard all week.

"To have this as my job is awesome," Burger said. "I've had it pay for college. I am going to go play golf for a living now. It's just a cool feeling, you are going to have bad days at the office, but it could always be worse. You just have to continue to have that positive attitude. It's just golf."

Just golf. Just golf when she first took a swing, just golf when she won a state high school championship, just golf at Georgia and now just golf as her job.

"I am excited. I am ready," Burger said. "I am excited to step on a new stage, I think it's time."