Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA (AP) – Kyle Berkshire (pic above) spent two years playing for the University of North Texas before his golf path switched over to power, and he capped off his remarkable surge by winning the World Long Drive Championship last year.

He is a main inspiration for US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who is striving to hit the ball as far as he can. They have never met in person, but they speak regularly on the phone. It’s a two-way street.

“He helps me out a little bit with the golf side, so it works out pretty good,” Berkshire said. “He’s trying to gain distance. I’m trying to sharpen my game.”

Berkshire, a 23-year-old from Maryland whose ball speed has topped out — so far — at about 230mph, is ready to return to the more conventional game and hopes to eventually earn his way into tour events. He said his handicap is at plus-three, still not quite where it was at North Texas, but he’s making progress. And he’s learned that working on his short game and shot-making is not affecting his ability to launch shots in the World Long Drive events.

“My last event I think was the best I’ve ever been,” he said. “The four weeks before, I didn’t do any long drive. The night before the event, I was working on my wedges.”

Former champion Jamie Sadlowski is the most prominent player from the World Long Drive arena to play on pro tours. He has been in two PGA Tour events, at Colonial and the Safeway Open in 2017, missing the cut in both. But he has made a number of cuts on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, and one cut on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour in 2015.

Berkshire wants to get his handicap index to a “solid (plus-)five.” The first stop is mini-tours in Florida.

“I want to develop my game so if I get offered a sponsor exemption, I can prove I belong there,” he said. “I want to be at least able to make checks on the mini-tour.”

As for DeChambeau? Berkshire is a big fan and hopes the US Open champion can get a 48-inch driver ready before going to the Masters next month.

“If he can get the 48-inch driver, he will shoot 20 under or better,” Berkshire said. “It’s going to be a slaughter.”

BAHAMAS BREAK

The Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico on December 3-6 is the last PGA Tour-sanctioned event of 2020, and it won’t have to worry about being upstaged by golf’s biggest stars playing in the Bahamas.

The Hero World Challenge, hosted by Tiger Woods, has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 18-man event features only players from the top 50. Henrik Stenson is the defending champion after outlasting Jon Rahm on the back nine of Albany Golf Club last year.

Tournament organisers attributed the cancellation to “global restrictions” and other developments from the pandemic. They said it would return to Albany in 2021.

NO REGRETS FOR KO

Jin Young Ko last played on the LPGA Tour in November at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida, ending her season by sweeping all the major awards. She has chosen to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic at home in South Korea and has no regrets.

She is the only top player to have skipped all three majors. Ko plans to return November 19-22 in Florida and play the following two weeks, concluding with the US Women’s Open.

“Given that health and safety are the most important things, this was an unavoidable choice,” she told Yonhap News Agency last week before her runner-up finish in a Korean LPGA event. “My parents were worried that something might happen to me, and I am their only daughter. I couldn’t just leave them behind.”

Ko remains number one in the world. She has played five times on the KLPGA, with three top 10s. She will be number one when she returns to America, with only one event this week ahead of her return at the Pelican Women’s Championship.