SPC golfer of the year is looking to repeat, improve

Sarah Bertram has never shot a better round of golf than the 74 she scored at Cabarrus County Club on Sept. 4. But like most golfers, she feels she's only as good as the next round she plays.

Over the last couple years, Bertram, a sophomore at Concord, has become one of the area's best young golfers.

The reigning South Piedmont 3A Player of the Year, she has started the 2010 season with solid second and first place finishes in the first two conference matches.

Bertram started swinging the sticks when she was in third grade and would tag along to the driving range with her father, Howard. But at that age, she was more interested in hitting a baseball off a tee than a golf ball.

Bertram also enjoyed tennis and basketball and didn't take golf seriously until she reached middle school. The first time Bertram played an 18-hole round, as a 12-year old, she shot 115. Howard recognized his daughter's potential and recommended she start taking a few lessons at Cabarrus Country Club.

Bertram's first tournament was in 2007 at the famed Rock Barn Country Club in Conover. She and an opponent were the only two female players in the National Junior Golf Tour event. They were tied after the first day but Bertram prevailed in the second round.

In the summer of 2008, Bertram became a regular on the National Junior Golf Tournament circuit, playing about once a month. At Piper Glen, she shot an 87 to break 90 for the first time, and won the tournament.

Bertram also won the club championship in her division at her home course, Cabarrus Country Club. She continued playing Juniors tournaments the following summer and more frequent lessons helped with the accuracy of her shots.

When she joined Concord High's team last year as a freshman, she had never before experienced the team golf concept. Though playing as an individual was one of the things that drew her to golf in the first place, Bertram loved the idea of having teammates.

"When she was in eighth grade, I knew she was talented and that she was playing in junior tournaments," said Concord coach Angela Morton. "She was really excited about being part of the team last year. Sarah is a great young person and the attraction of being part of the team is important to her."

In one of her first high school matches, Bertram shot a nine-hole 37 at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis. That was a springboard for earning Player of the Year honors in the conference and qualifying for the 1A/2A/3A Central Regional tournament.

There, she shot an 89 and finished eighth, qualifying her for the state tournament at Pinehurst's Longleaf course. Bertram shot a 36-hole 173 and placed 19th out of 78 golfers at states.

Over the last year, she has worked diligently on perfecting her short game and the accuracy of her longer shots. Around Cabarrus Country Club, people started calling her "Short Knockers" for the short distance of her drives.

"I could use some work in the length department," said Bertram.

"But accuracy is really big for me. I don't care how long it goes as long as it's in the right direction so I can get a good angle for the next shot."

After a sluggish spring, in which she was having trouble with consistency, Bertram rebounded in the summer. She shot an 81 to place third at CCC's Peggy Kirk Bell tournament and recorded her career low 74 while walking the same course with her dad and mom, Donna.

In the first two high school matches this season, Bertram carded a 40 for a second place finish at Irish Creek and a 39 to earn medalist honors at CCC.

Her goals this season are to again qualify for regionals and the state tournament. Bertram might be a year or two away though from reaching her coach's ultimate goal though.

"I think Sarah can win a state championship by end of her high school career," said Morton.