THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. — Kyle Berkshire, a Crofton native and Archbishop Spalding graduate, spent two years playing for the University of North Texas before his golf path switched over to power, and he capped his remarkable surge by winning the World Long Drive Championship last year.
He is a main inspiration for U.S. 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 whose ball speed has topped out — so far — at about 230 mph, 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-3, 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-]5.” 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 U.S. 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.”