RICHLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — While Max VanderMolen of Richland won’t be teeing off at The Masters later this month, the 11-year-old golfing phenom may be there soon.
Max proves that you don’t need to live somewhere with year-round championship courses to make your mark on the golf world.
Max started golfing when he was 4 years old, but his visits to the green started even earlier.
“I was a golfer, yeah,” said his father, Jim VanderMolen. “I got Max probably goin’ to the club when he was about 2 or 3, just to, you know, watch me and like every other kid, just whack a ball around.”
But Max’s penchant for putting exceeded most kids his age.
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“I think I got a plastic club once and I just started hitting that around and I always loved it,” he said.
Max played every day for about four hours a day until his dad made a move.
“I knew he had some talent but you just don’t know how to compare it to other people, so I entered him in a golf tournament when he was 6, down in Florida, and realized that he was pretty good,” said Jim VanderMolen.
“From then on, it’s just been go, go, go,” he added.
He says together, they learned how tournaments work.
“He’s probably one of the top 11-year-olds in the world, probably top ten. And we play all the time and he seems to love it,” said Jim VanderMolen.
Max earned a spot in the National Finals of Drive, Chip & Putt Championship — a free nationwide junior golf competition held every year at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before The Masters.
“He’s actually been to the finals four years in a row and has only made it to Augusta once,” said Jim VanderMolen.
That appearance came when Max was only 9 years old. He finished in second place, with his proud dad serving as his caddie.
“I got to carry the bag and we got to drive down Magnolia Lane and meet all the players. And it was special. It was really neat,” said Jim VanderMolen.
“It was really fun meeting Jordan Speith and Ben Crenshaw and Bubba Watson, they were all really nice,” said Max.
While Max narrowly missed a return trip to Augusta this year, missing the cut in the sub-regional qualifier by a couple of points. But he remains hopeful he’ll make it back to Magnolia Lane.
“He’s got a pretty good attitude and a good temper on the golf course. You know, he always doesn’t play well, but he handles it well and he never stops trying,” his dad said.