Rich Berberian Jr. is the very definition of a working golf professional.
Which is why he was on his way to work early in the morning June 30, driving from central New York state to make his 1 p.m. shift at Windham Country Club in Derry, N.H., where he’s an assistant pro. Never mind that his tournament-clinching birdie putt at the PGA Professional Championship at Turning Stone Resort had fallen in the hole barely 15 hours before.
“Back to reality,” he said.
And there lies the central conundrum in a guy like Berberian’s life: demonstrably talented player well positioned to practice his craft at the highest level of the game; and full-time assistant pro with all that it entails – manning the pro shop desk, organizing and running club tournaments, teaching golf … in short, giving time to a job like any working stiff.
Rich Berberian Jr., an adopted son of Grey Goatee Nation, tees off at 12:45 p.m. (Eastern time) in the first round of the PGA Championship Thursday in a group with veteran tour pro Rocco Mediate and Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA champion.
But now, after his national championship at the PGA pros event, he has opportunities, first and most notably a berth in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol this weekend. It’s his second major — he played in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay last year.
The $75,000 winner’s check from Turning Stone helped Berberian and fiancé Morgan Lagerberg buy a new condo in Hooksett, N.H.
The tournament victory also means he can play in six other PGA Tour events next year. How will that work? And what will happen if he plays well at the PGA Championship and yet more doors open?
Berberian suggests it’s a nice problem to have. His bosses and co-workers, he said, have been great about giving the two-time New England PGA champion (2014, 2015) the time to prepare for and play in tournaments.
“It’s hard to be able to compete with everybody when you’re working 60 hours a week,” he said that late June morning, the hum of traffic on Highway 97 behind his voice. “But it’s part of the life that I chose, and I love it, no doubt about it.”
Tomorrow: A look back at the shots that nearly wrenched him out of contention at the PGA pros tournament and the shots that brought him all the way back to victory; and a look ahead to his first PGA Championship.