Berkshire grabbed the top seed heading into Monday’s quarterfinals of the World Long Drive tour stop, leading a field of big hitters after two days of qualifying at Cattails at MeadowView Golf Course.
“I definitely caught fire toward the end,” Berkshire said. “Toward the middle of the tournament, I kind of lost my rhythm a little bit.
View Todd Brase’s photos from Sunday’s preliminary rounds
“Me and my coach, Bobby Peterson, kind of retooled, re-engaged. We knew we had the numbers and the speed and were making a good motion, so I just didn’t panic. I kept swinging and eventually got into a rhythm and got really comfortable and put up some big numbers.”
Berkshire’s best effort of the day, 396 yards, was the second-longest drive on Sunday. He earned the top seed by gaining the most points through several rounds of four-man sets. Only Germany’s Martin Borgmeier had a longer drive, at 397.
“We’re not trying to do anything too crazy,” said Berkshire, a 22-year-old from Crofton, Maryland. “It’s just about getting through rounds. It’s just about getting to tomorrow, and then tomorrow it’s about letting it rip.”
The real fun begins Monday when the head-to-head portion of the competition begins. As the top seed, Berkshire will get to choose his hitting order and he’ll likely always go second. He needed just four swings to win three rounds in capturing the championship at the ROC City Rumble in Rochester, New York, last month.
“Going second, you have control over the match,” Berkshire said. “When you know the number you have to hit, it’s really great to have that knowledge. But at the same time, I also know that if I hit a good ball I’m going to win either way.
“It’s just that extra 3½ minutes waiting for that guy to hit, just soaking it in, getting involved with the atmosphere, get relaxed, and figure out what you’re going to do from there.”
Borgmeier, who had several drives of more than 400 yards during Saturday’s preliminaries, is a relative newcomer in the sport. The native of Munich has been competing for about a year and a half and made it to the finals in Rochester, where he lost to Berkshire.
“I love it,” Borgmeier said. “A year back, all these guys were kind of my idols. They still are, but now I’m pacing them. I’m beating them, so that’s kind of cool. I just enjoy it. I’m so grateful to be out here in the U.S.”
Defending champion Justin James qualified fourth and had a long drive of 388 yards on Sunday. Just making the final eight to have a shot to win on Monday is everybody’s goal, he said.
“It’s similar to if you’re in a PGA Tour event, you just want to have a chance to win it on the last day,” James said. “You can’t win it today, but you can obviously lose it. Just give yourself a chance.”
James said he’s looking forward to trying to defend his championship in front of what is expected to be a standing-room-only crowd in the temporary stadium built around the first tee at Cattails. More seats have been added after the event proved to be wildly successful last year.
“This is the best event we have,” James said. “It’s great to be here, a great environment. We have a couple of things like this popping up. This opened people’s eyes of what it can be. It serves as kind of a model for what we can do.”
Monday’s action begins with the women’s preliminary rounds at 10 a.m. The women’s quarterfinals are set for 11:45 a.m.
At 6 p.m., the TV cameras come on for Golf Channel’s coverage of the event. The women’s semifinals and championship match will be aired as will the men’s quarterfinals, semifinals and championship.
Admission to the event, which benefits Niswonger Children’s Hospital, is free.