POTSDAM — The current club champion at the Potsdam Town & Country Club is 14-year-old Tyler Berkman, who is 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. When he became the youngest club champion last summer, he was only 13 years of age and 5-foot-0, 105 pounds.
This summer, Berkman, the son of SUNY Potsdam men’s lacrosse coach Rick Berkman, has been part of the Central New York PGA Junior Tour, where he has won one tournament and finished second three times.
“It’s awesome,” Berkman said of the tour. “There is so much competition, so many kids. There are 50 on the tour and about 20 every tournament. It’s so much more competition and the courses are beautiful. It’s a $45 registration to play a private course. It gives me motivation to come back and play a nice course.”
Berkman will be a freshman in high school this fall and he joins Canton native Ryan Jones on the tour. Like Berkman, Jones is an accomplished youth golfer, winning the state 12-and-under title two years ago. The duo are good friends and the best competition the other has in the county at the moment.
“We have that bond,” Berkman said. “If you are on a new tour you’ll be nervous. I played with Ryan in one of my first tournaments. We knew who we were and we weren’t as nervous, because we were playing together. He has a lot of motivation to get out every day and that inspires me to want to do the same thing. We just go out and play. We have fun together.”
Berkman uses his small stature to his advantage. He said at some of the Central PGA events he has walked past much taller youths and then amazed them when he ripped drives longer than they can hit.
“They ask where I got the power from,” Berkman joked.
Berkman is also the defending junior champion from last year’s Six-Man competition, and he is looking forward to this season because the six scores for each club can now include a junior, senior or super-senior if they are better than one of the six on the traditional team.
“It’s not just for myself, but for our team in general,” Berkman said. “That’s one thing I like about lacrosse more than golf, playing on a team with buddies. That was a huge plus for me.”
As the son of a lacrosse coach it is no surprise that Berkman enjoys that sport as well. His problem is in the Northern Athletic Conference golf and lacrosse are both spring sports. He had planned to play golf last spring, as an eighth-grader, so he could make it to one state tournament. But now he will focus on lacrosse in the spring and play golf in the summer tour.
Rick Berkman said his son started golfing when he was in the fourth grade and just took to the game well when playing rounds with him.
“He’s always had good hand-eye coordination in all the sports he plays,” Rick Berkman said. “He had clubs when he was 3 or 4 and would just swing them around. He just developed a swing. He’s never really had a lesson. I just wanted him to learn naturally, figuring out the swing and nuances by himself.”
As his son has improved Rick Berkman has seen him get to the stage now where he regular posts a better score than his own.
“We went to (Canton’s) Partridge Run and played 27 holes, just to play somewhere else,” Rick Berkman said. “He was right down the middle every hole. For me it’s just nice to see how much he enjoys the game. His demeanor on the course never changes. He never reacts negatively. He handles himself, which is probably what I’m most proud of.”
Tyler Berkman, who played varsity hockey last year as an eighth-grader, does hope to compete in college in golf, even if he never is officially on a high school team.
“I was inspired by Tiger Woods a lot and the way he made the game so much different,” Tyler Berkman said. “I cherish that he is still playing. I like being out every day and working and being good at something. It’s something I was lucky and talented in and being great at something is what I want.”