Yorkshire golf: Josh Berry is one to watch as he heads to Pinehurst

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IT is a problem to which top players can relate: after a week playing in California, Josh Berry is enjoying a week at home with the family before heading back to the USA for another event, this time in North Carolina.

Josh, however, is not a seasoned tournament professional, but an 11-year-old golfing prodigy, from Doncaster.

Doncaster GCs Josh Berry with coach Andy Wilkinson at a recent junior event in San Diego.

Doncaster GCs Josh Berry with coach Andy Wilkinson at a recent junior event in San Diego.

He earned his invites to play in the IMG Academy Junior World Championships, in San Diego, and the adidas Wee Wonders World Championships, at Pinehurst, as a result of a steep upward path that has seen his handicap tumble from 28 to five in little more than a year.

His victory in the Wee Wonders event on the Strathtyrum course at St Andrews last summer enabled him to claim his ticket to US Open venue Pinehurst.

He followed that with third place in the USKGF European Championship at Gullane last month, a performance that opened the door onto the IMG event.

On Thursday, the Bentley High Street pupil won a place in the American Golf Junior Championship Grand Final despite still struggling to come to terms with jet lag.

His coach, Andy Wilkinson, of Doncaster Driving Range, accompanied him to California where Josh fired rounds of 79 78 77.

Having carded a four-under-par 68 in his first practice round, he confessed to a feeling of disappointment – an indicator that Yorkshire has a junior player setting himself the same high standards as did Sheffield’s Danny Willett during the formative years of his career that led to his major triumph at Augusta in April.

Josh, though, is a fan not of his fellow Yorkshireman, but of Northern Ireland’s RoryMcIlroy. Why? “Well, I look a bit like him,” says Josh, “and Rory’s a bad putter and I’m a bad putter.”

Bad is clearly a relative term given a rapid ascent that has led to him being included in Yorkshire’s Under-16/Under-15/Under-14 side against Lancashire counterparts in a match to be played at Abbeydale on Monday.

He does have a link with the Masters champion as well as McIlroy, for he was awarded the Danny Willett Trophy at Doncaster GC for the junior player with the highest handicap reduction for last year.

However, he is always looking to be better, and said, with somewhat harsh self-analysis: “I felt confident going into the first round of the competition in America, but I blew it – I was three-putting most of the greens.

“If I hit an approach shot close, I’m really happy, but if I hit one outside 20ft, it’s alright.

“If I’m outside 20ft I think I’m going to three-putt; if I’m inside I race it past and then three-putt. It’s not very nice.

“But the greens were really, really fast.”

His dedication to the sport was exemplifed in California where he turned up three hours ahead of his tee-off times in an attempt to get the feel of the greens.

“I went early to practise my putting and chipping,” he explained. “The greens on the course were a lot faster than the practice green, though, and they fooled me a little bit.

“In the practice round when I shot four under I was just hitting them at the flags and expected them to be close.

“But in the other rounds, because the greens were very undulating if you were a little bit out you were left with a really tricky putt.”

Told that a lot of people never break 80 in their life, and that he should be proud of shooting three scores in the 70s on his first trip abroad, he admits, albeit with some reluctance: “Yes, my long game was very good, and my irons are the best part of my game.”

His family – father Scott, mother Helen, and eight-year-old brother Taylor – will travel with him to Pinehurst and the Berrys will also spend time in New York and Disney World, Florida.

But you suspect Josh’s mind will almost certainly stray to golf, no matter where he is in the world – and the chances are his golf game is going to be good enough to take him to all parts of the globe should he achieve his ultimate ambition of becoming a tournament professional.