Joshua Berry: Meet the 18-year-old from Doncaster who just qualified for the DP World Tour
Berry has been a golfing wunderkind for much of his adolescent life, first coming to the attention of Yorkshire before he was a teenager, but what he achieved this week in Spain borders on the unprecedented.
Against men playing for their livelihoods, amateur golfer Berry – who was still in school two years ago and only passed his driving test earlier this summer – negotiated six rounds of Qualifying School at Infinitum Golf (Lakes & Hills Courses), Tarragona, Spain, to finish inside the top 25 and secure a place on the DP World Tour for the 2024 season.
That was late Wednesday afternoon.
On Friday he logged into the Professional Golfers Association app to change his status from amateur to professional and on Sunday he flies out to South Africa for the season-opening Joburg Open which begins on Thursday.
No wonder he has had little time to sit and think about the life-changing events of the last few days.
“It feels absolutely amazing, it’s not really sunk in yet and I can’t wait to get going,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“I haven’t thought about sponsors yet, I just want to play. I’m flying out to South Africa on Sunday and I’m going straight into the tournaments.
“I’ll sort all that out around Christmas time.
“I’ve not met with an agent yet, it’s all happened so quick I just want to get straight out into it.
“I’m just letting my Dad sort all that for me at the minute.”
It was Dad Scott who gave Joshua the golfing bug, and his family who ferried him around to lessons and tournaments.
He was nine when they first went to Doncaster driving range together.
“I think it was pretty natural to me, I got into lessons pretty quickly and then into the Yorkshire regional squad when I was really young,” continues Berry, whose hero in the golfing world is Tiger Woods – “he’s the pinnacle, the face of golf” – even if Tiger’s best years were when Berry was in nappies.
“I got into the England Boys squad, England Men's squad and then I’ve just turned professional today."
He dabbled with football at an early age but once he picked up a golf club there was only ever one thing on his mind, and not even school was going to get in the way.
“I left school at 16 to focus on golf full-time, so I’ve been doing that for the last two and a half years,” says Berry, who was planning on eschewing the more glamorous option of going to college in America on a golf scholarship to focus on staying at home and practising, not that he needs that route any more.
“Even when I was at school all I could think about was playing golf. I’d finish school early just to get out and play. It’s been non-stop golf, all day, every day.
“Most 18-year-olds would be going to college for a four-year golf scholarship now but I’ve always thought that wasn’t for me.
“I’ve never even spoken to a college coach. I love travelling, and I’ve played golf in America, I just don’t like the school side of it. I just feel like I’ve already practised for four or five hours before everybody gets to the golf course in college.
“I just wanted to do Q School every year until I got on. I just never thought I’d get through first time.”
He arrived in Tarragona having already negotiated two stages of Qualifying School against lesser-ranked opponents, a starting block achieved against the backdrop of missing out on the major goal of what would turn out to be his final year as an amateur.
“My goals this year were to just get to the Walker Cup, but when I didn’t get into that, I’ve just been focused on getting to Q School. My goals for next year are going to be a lot different,” he smiles.
“Missing out on Walker Cup was disappointing, I knew in myself that I didn’t do enough to get in. You’ve always got at the back of your mind that Q School is at the end of the year, obviously it was my first one and I’ve always been thinking about it. I knew I would have to shoot three-under-par per round, so I’ve focused all my practice on that and it’s obviously paid off.”
He played three practice rounds across the two courses at Infinitum, and then opened with rounds of 67, 68, 70 and 67.
Day five was his worst of the week, but that was still a level-par 71, and meant he went to bed on Tuesday night with 18 holes left and in a share of 16th place, holding onto a prized spot on the DP World Tour.
“I was nervous in the last round, as anyone would be, probably not as nervous as a 35-year-old who’s playing with a family to think of, that makes a huge difference,” accepts Berry, who due to his age could allow himself to be more relaxed.
“But I was still nervous because the difference between the Challenge Tour and the DP World Tour is massive so one shot can change your life.
“My mindset all week was just hit one shot at a time and take it one day at a time. It would be easy to think about what’s at the end of it.
“My goal for the day was to give myself as many birdie chances as possible.
“I hit the ball really nicely I just couldn’t get the ball to drop, but then on 15 I holed a key putt which was just massive.
“It gave me a one-shot cushion with two par-fives to come.
“There was a scoreboard on every hole but it wasn’t too hard to control my emotions, I’ve got a lot of good people around me who are always keeping me grounded.
“I never get too ahead of myself.”
Which brings us back to his goals for his rookie season. Symptomatic of his tender years and how quickly he is having to deal with his new reality, they are currently all over the place.
“I haven’t even had chance to sit down and think about goals either,” he laughs, safe in the knowledge that his new-found status gets him into 25 events on the DP World Tour in the 2024 season.
“The first goal is to just play well this week in Joburg to get into the Alfred Dunhill Championship in a couple of weeks time.”
Before he goes on to say: “That’s going to be one of the goals to get into the Rolex events.”
And then: “One of my goals will be to finish on the top-10 of the Order of Merit to get the PGA Tour card.”
After what he’s achieved this week, why would Joshua Berry put a limit on what is possible?
“I’m just ready to crack on now,” he says, almost impatiently. “I’m not nervous about playing against men, I’m not daunted. I’ve earned the right to be there.”