He could have followed his well-known father into tennis. He could have surfed like his two brothers.
Instead, Daniel Berger blazed his own trail in golf, and now everyone at the 2012 Dixie Amateur is following his lead.
Berger, a 19-year-old sophomore at Florida State, shot a career-best, 9-under-par 63 Tuesday afternoon to take a three-shot lead after the first round of the Dixie Amateur at Heron Bay in Coral Springs.
The four-day tournament continues through Friday.
“When you shoot 63, everything works,” said Berger, whose previous best competitive round was a 64. “I hit it straight, and I made putts.”
Berger made four straight birdies to start his round and closed with three consecutive birdies, fighting off windy conditions.
“The greens were nice,” said Berger, who had 10 birdies and just one bogey. “Some of the tee boxes were moved up from last year, maybe in anticipation of the wind. But you still have to go out and make birdies.”
Berger, who is from Jupiter and went to Dwyer High, finished second at last year’s Dixie, falling one shot behind longtime rival Curtis Thompson of Coral Springs.
Thompson, a sophomore at LSU, shot a 66 on Tuesday to settle into second place, well within striking distance.
“We’ve been playing golf together since we were 12 years old,” Berger said of his relationship with Thompson. “I’d say as a junior, he’s kicked my butt more often, but it’s gotten closer over the past couple years.”
Thompson said he doesn’t consider it a rivalry because the two are good friends, and he has no problem crediting Berger.
“I played bogey-free,” Thompson said, “but he just flat-out beat me today.”
Thompson’s younger sister, Lexi, is considered a rising star on the LPGA Tour, and Berger also has athletics in his genes.
His brothers Jonathan and Noah are the surfers. But his most famous relative is his father, Jay, who reached his career-high world tennis ranking of No. 7 in 1990 and played in two Davis Cups. He is now the director of tennis for the USTA, coaching the U.S. team at the London Olympics.
For Daniel Berger, though, golf has long been his sport of choice. As a freshman last season, he finished seventh at the ACC championships and 21st at the NCAA finals.
If he wins his first Dixie Amateur this week, it would be special, Berger said.
“It won’t be easy — I have to grind for three more days,” Berger said. “But it would mean a lot because of how close I came last year.”
Thompson admires Berger’s style.
“With me, I hit it as hard as I can, and it goes where it goes,” Thompson said. “Daniel is nothing flashy but very consistent — fairway, green, and make a putt. And it goes pretty far for how straight he hits it. He’s come a long way the past couple of years.”