I don’t know what to make of it.
I have never, in all my years covering North Shore golf, seen such a plethora of sibling success stories on our fairways and greens as I have chronicled the last few years. From the Bass Rocks Turner brothers (James and Mark), to the Kernwood Emmerich brothers (Max, Christian, Aidan) to the Tedesco Tufts brothers (Brad and Roger), and now come the Essex County Club’s Buddenhagen brothers, Evan and Miles.
Evan, 17, and Miles, 16, from Magnolia, stole the headlines last week at the Massachusetts Junior Amateur qualifier at Bear Hill, Evan sharing medalist honors at 73 with Kernwood’s Sean Dully, while Miles qualified in the eighth spot, scoring 77, one stroke better than the qualifying cutoff.
The Buddenhagen boys and Dully move on to the main event, August 2-5, at Indian Pond golf course in Kingston. Another fascinating story of brothers, close in age, committed to the game they love, helping each other along the way, and displaying all kinds of potential as they shoot for their ultimate goal – the PGA Tour.
Curious how devoted Evan and Miles are to their game and their long-term goals? Be curious no more. They are student-athletes attending the world renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the largest and most advanced multi-sport training and educational institution, founded in 1987.
For all the impressive teen golf talent we have observed in this neighborhood spanning more than 50 years, we have never had a junior golfer attending the IMG Academy. Now we have two, brothers no less, affiliated at Essex, shooting for the stars via the IMG Academy.
You cannot get any more serious about your golf game than the IMG Academy. It’s a full-time boarding school, offering the student-athlete seven years of high schooling from sixth grade through 12th grade.
To support their passion for golf, Evan and Miles’s parents have made a substantial commitment in the boys’ continuous improvement in their game by investing in their IMG education.
“My brother and I appreciate the sacrifices our parents are making so that we can attend the Academy,” says Evan, a junior at the institution. Miles has three years to go. “We also appreciate that they understand how serious we are about being good students and the very best golfers we can for our college years.”
Theirs is a classic case of enjoying a variety of school and town sports during their elementary years (Manchester and Brookwood School), then coming to a quick realization that golf was what they wanted to concentrate on as they hit their teen years. And, they came to it rather naturally. Evan has a current GHIN (handicap) index of plus-2, Miles is a 2. In other words, they are rated scratch golfers. Both realize there are thousands of teens playing at the same level.
“I was into youth football and baseball,” says Evan, now 1-for-1 in Massachusetts Junior qualifying appearances. “But golf’s the game I fell for in a big way. People told me early on I had a good swing and now I’m taking that swing as far as I can. I love hitting the ball in practice or on the golf course. I love the feeling I get when I hit a good shot. That’s like immediate reward. But I know golf is all about applying your best game for 18 holes or more.”
Guided initially at Essex by former First assistant Alex Hoyas, now the head pro at Essex County Country Club (Note that is the exact name of the club, almost like ECC in Manchester, but not exactly) in New Jersey, the Buddenhagens are coached in Bradenton by Scott Bettger.
“It was a big decision for us to go to the IMG Academy,” Evan, who recently tied the Essex members course record with a seven-birdie 65, explained. “But Miles and I understood what was involved. We’d been away at camp (Maine and Florida). We knew we could handle being away, that we could make friends and make the situation feel like home. And, most important, it’s great that we are there together; and that we are there to be good students and improve our golf the best we can.”
The IMG Academy is no country club lifestyle. It is mighty serious stuff. Golf from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., academic classes from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., supper, homework, lights out by 11. The brothers live in the same dorm-like room, with bunk beds. The only concessions to luxury bare a television set and their own bathroom/shower.
It’s a six-day weekly schedule, with Sunday “break” day. Practice range is closed, but they can play the golf course casually or with a friendly match. “We try and make it a ‘relax’ day,” admits Evan, who was inducted into the National Honor Society this past spring, while Miles achieved high honors for the year.
Miles, similar in physique to Evan (5-10, 165 pounds) at 5-10, 170, was all in following Evan’s affection for the game. Their physiques allow both to stretch their drives to 300 yards. Yet they realize golf is much more than booming tee shots.
“I was into other sports, especially baseball, at first, like Evan,” Miles said. “But I’d torn my ACL skiing when I was nine, and that made playing team sports difficult. Evan was already playing golf so I spent a lot of time watching him hit golf balls. Then I gave it a shot and got stuck on the game like him.”
They took lessons from Webb Heintzelman at Turner Hill, then from renowned teacher David Ledbetter, saw quick improvement in their games, and with their parents’ blessing, are trying to take their games to a rarified level at the IMG Academy.
“Evan and Miles love the game,” says their dad, Erich. “It’s as simple as that. They excelled in baseball and football, but they both turned to golf as their primary focus soon enough. I’m not sure where they got all this talent. We’re just glad they’re having fun at the same time that they’re passionate about it. Me? I like to play with them, but I can’t keep up. They’re too good and hopefully getting better all the time.
“As parents, Jen and I consider ourselves blessed that we can help Evan and Miles take this route with such serious golf ambitions.”
“Our parents have always wanted us to play whatever sports were fun to us,” Miles made clear.
The brothers, mature beyond their years, showed their mettle at the Bear Hill qualifier. Evan, playing in the next-to-last group, was two over par at the turn with no birdies, but made two on the back (Nos. 12 and 18) to finish atop the leaderboard.
Miles was six over the front, but settled down and played par golf the back to join his brother at Indian Pond.
Now we get to see how they apply their IMG Academy training vying for the 103rd Massachusetts Junior title.
Attention: Time to register for the 52nd annual Mike Frangos Memorial Commodore Open, benefitting the Northeast Arc, September 20 at Myopia Hunt Club. See the Arc website for details regards sponsorship opportunities and entering a foursome.
We mourn the passing of John Barrett, 2000 Salem CC Fourball winner with host Ron Pascucci. Barrett was an all-scholastic trickster and footballer at St. John’s Prep and starred on the gridiron at Boston College.
They’re doing some very nice renovation work at Cape Ann in Essex.
Some familiar names ruled at the Tedesco Cup, led by net division winners Tom Burke III and Rom Emmons, who shot 64-63-127, 13 under net. They edged Michael Tyrrell and Michael MacKinnon by one stroke. Three teams tied at 129: Bryan Benevento-Steve Roy, Michael O’Connor-Mike Sweeney and Chuck DiGrande-Wayne Guyer. Brad Tufts, perennial club champion, won gross with David Greiner at 135, two shots better than Wayne Pettee-John Hogan. Brad’s brother Roger was at 138 with Matthew Collins, along with Paul MacDonald-Tom Finocchio.
Reading The Greens author Gary Larrabee, a former Salem News sportswriter (1971-95), has covered golf on the North Shore and beyond for more than 50 years.