Now that Scott Berliner has become the king of the hill on the local club professional tour, it will be extremely hard to knock him off his pedestal.
The 37-year-old assistant pro at Normanside Country Club is coming off one of the greatest seasons in Northeastern New York PGA history. He not only won the section's top two major events, the NENYPGA Stroke Play Championship at The Edison Club and the NENYPGA Match Play Championship at The Sagamore Resort, but he also was both the NENYPGA Player of the Year and the NENYPGA Assistants Association Player of the Year in his first season with a PGA Class A card.
Although Berliner has been a top-notch assistant pro at several courses, including Shaker Ridge Country Club, he couldn't play in the section's major events. Only club pros with a Class A card have full-fledged PGA status and can play in every local tournament. He took full advantage of his opportunity to play with the local head pros by winning nearly every week.
The Luzerne native also captured the Professional National Championship at Hiland Golf Club and the FAM Funds Classic at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club. Both of those events were two-day tournaments with special player of the year points attached.
Talk about domination.
Berliner then took his game to the national level and finished tied for second in the prestigious 35th annual Callaway Golf PGA Assistants Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"I think my confidence level has increased. I've learned to let it go when it comes to my game," he said.
Berliner spent the winter competing on two mini tours, the Florida Professional Golf Tour in Orlando and the West Florida Tour in Sarasota. Heading into his last week in Florida, he had already won twice since January and was the leading money winner on the West Florida Tour. He also picked up a mini-tour win in December.
"I've been a lot more consistent over the last 12 months than I've ever been in my entire career," Berliner said. "This is pretty cool. I'm still trying to live the dream and do what I've always wanted to do, and that's to play professional golf for a living.
"The more I play with the guys who are doing what I've always wanted to accomplish, and the more I compare my game to theirs, I realize I'm not that far off. I'm starting to believe in myself."
One of Berliner 's top memories of playing on the mini tours this winter involved the legendary Tony Jacklin, a two-time British Open champion and World Golf Hall of Famer.
"I was playing in a West Florida Tour event with Jacklin, and he was keeping my score. I ended up shooting a 64, and I got his autograph. He's the coolest guy I've ever played with," Berliner said.
Berliner still hopes to play on the PGA Tour some day, but for now, he's gearing up for the Northeastern New York PGA events.
"I'm not a goal-setter, but I've played in the National PNC, and I want to go back there again and play in a major championship," he said.
"Now that I have my PGA membership, I'm looking forward to some bigger stuff. I want to play better in the New York State Open. I've played in it nine or 10 times, and I tied for 12th last year, which was my best finish. I want to contend in the bigger events.
"I want to contend for the Player of the Year and the Assistants Player of the Year awards again, and if I get the chance to qualify in the U.S. Open Local Qualifier again, maybe I won't be as intimidated when I get to the sectionals. I've learned how to play in the big events now, and I can control my nerves."
Berliner said he is disappointed with the PGA Tour's decision to do away with Qualifying School as a path to membership, but that will take effect in 2013.
He has one more year to try to get his PGA Tour card without having to compete on the Nationwide Tour first.
He'll give that a try once he completes a busy summer against his fellow club professionals.
April 1 "" Annual Spring Meeting and Pro-Pro Tournament at Troy Hilton Garden Inn and CC of Troy; April 19 "" Assistants Spring Meeting and Pro-Pro Tournament at Mohawk Golf Club; April 23 "" Pro-Assistant Pro Championship at Pinehaven CC; April 30 "" Pro Classic No. 1 at Country Club of Troy.
May 7 "" Pro Classic No. 2 at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club; May 9 "" Gazette Cup at Mohawk Golf Club; May 11 "" Double "H" Hole in the Woods Pro-Qm at The Sagamore Resort; May 14 "" U.S. Open Local Qualifier at McGregor Links CC; May 21 "" Pro Classic No. 3 at Wahconah CC; May 29 "" Pro-Senior at Schuyler Meadows Club.
June 4 "" Pro Classic No. 4 at McGregor Links CC; June 8 "" New York State Open Qualifier at Colonie G&CC; June 10-11 "" Donald Ross Classic at The Sagamore Resort and Glens Falls CC; June 18 "" Ellis Medicine Pro-Am at Mohawk GC; June 25 "" Pro-Junior at Pinehaven CC.
July 2 "" Senior-Junior Pro-Pro at Skenendoah CC; July 9-10 "" Cobleskill event at Cobleskill G&CC; July 16 "" Windham Pro-Am at Windham CC; July 17-19 "" New York State Open at Bethpage State Park Black Course; July 23 "" Center for the Disabled Pro-Am at Albany CC; July 30-31 "" PGA Professional Championship at The Edison Club.
Aug. 6 "" Southworth Senior Professonal Championship at Glens Falls CC; Aug. 7 "" ALS Pro-Am Invitational at Mohawk GC; Aug. 13 "" Class A Championship at Stockbridge GC; Aug. 14 "" Senior Stroke Play Championship at Wyantenuck CC; Aug. 20 "" YMCA Pro-Am at Wiltwyck GC; Aug. 23 "" Pro-Lady at Wolferts Roost CC; Aug. 27-28 "" Stroke Play Championship at Mohawk GC.
Sept. 18-19 "" Match Play Championship at Albany CC; Sept. 24 "" Pro-Pro Championship at Normanside CC; Sept. 26 "" Assistants Championship at Colonie G&CC.
Oct. 2-3 "" Assistants Match Play Championship at Colonie G&CC; Oct. 5 "" Bob Smith Memorial Senior Pro-Am, TBA; Oct. 11 "" NENYPGA vs. Central New York PGA at Cedar Lake Golf Club; Oct. 15 "" Assistants Silver Dollar Pro-Am at McGregor Links CC; Oct. 22 "" Fall Meeting and Pro-Pro at Saratoga National GC.
Nov. 1-4 "" PGA Callaway Assistants National Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bob Weiner at 395-3147 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his take on local golf anytime by checking out his blog, "On the Ball," at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/weiner.