Junior likes to challenge herself to improve

Sarah Bertram enjoys pushing herself on the golf course.

"I think the reason I love golf so much is because it's so challenging every time out," the Concord High junior said. "If it was easy, everyone would do it. I love the challenge of always trying to get better."

During the spring and summer, Bertram is playing on the junior circuit and in tournaments, including American Junior Golf Association and Peggy Kirk Bell Tour events, just about every weekend. She said she's playing golf in some way, shape or form at least four hours a day.

In the school year, she scales back but still averages about two to three hours per day on the golf course or practice range, usually at her home course, Cabarrus Country Club.

Bertram, a five handicap who averages about 220 yards per drive off the tee, is a strong player on the junior circuit - where she's ranked No. 40 in the state - and at the high school level.

Bertram has dominated the South Piedmont Conference on the golf course since her arrival as a freshman, earning SPC Player of the Year honors as the conference's medalist in each of her first two seasons for the Spiders.

Bertram has also excelled at the regional and state levels, finishing eighth at regionals and 19th at states as a freshman, then following that up with another eighth-place finish at regionals and placing 15th at the 3A state meet last season.

"Just having Sarah as a part of our team sets the tone and mood for the rest of the squad," said Concord's first-year golf coach, Samantha Bedford. "Everybody looks up to her, not only because of her ability and talent on the golf course, but also her knowledge of the game, the courses and the rules of golf."

Bertram is a mentor to a lot of the girls on the Concord golf team, regularly offering tips on strategy and other aspects of the game.

This year, Concord hopes to be a contender for the SPC title. Bertram, Kristin Durant and Haley Mullins lead the way for a team with two straight second-place league finishes.

While Bertram enjoys having teammates in the high school season, her main focus is on improving her game.

"I like having people that are there for me," Bertram said. "But in the end, golf is an individual sport, where you are really playing against the course."

After a strong summer, when she shot a career-best 73 at Pinehurst No. 4 in July, Bertram has won the first four matches of the year in conference play, shooting a season-best nine-hole score of 33 in a recent match at Green Oaks Golf Club.

Bertram hopes to win a third consecutive SPC individual title and place higher than she has at both the state and regional meets.

"I definitely want to win all four SPC titles, but I don't try to think about it that way and put a lot of pressure on myself," Bertram said. "I just focus on improving all the time."

Bertram has been working on her game since the third grade, when her father, Howard, started taking her to the driving range and golf course.

But she didn't get serious about golf until her friend and neighbor, Cydney Clanton, gave her a set of clubs, further sparking her interest to pursue the game when she was 10 years old.

Clanton, the 3A state champion at Concord in 2006 and a four-time All-American at Auburn University, is now on the LPGA Futures Tour, trying to qualify for her LPGA Tour card. Bertram said Clanton still finds time to give her golf tips when they're able to talk.

Bertram hopes to follow in her friend's steps.

"I definitely want to play college golf and think I will have a good shot to do that," said Bertram. "I'd love to be a pro, but that is such a long shot, I don't really think about it."