Richland’s Max VanderMolen Tops 15-and-under Boys’ Points List
FARMINGTON HILLS – Richland’s Max VanderMolen, who turns 14 next week on Dec. 21, has already been making Michigan golf news for a handful of years.
He’s making more.
A two-time winner in GAM tournaments this summer, VanderMolen has been named the Golf Association of Michigan Junior Boys’ 15-and-under Player of the Year, Kyle Wolfe, director of junior golf for the GAM announced today.
GAM Players of the Year are determined by the Player of the Year points system presented by Carl’s Golfland. Points totals can be found on a pull down from the PLAY tab at GAM.org.
Previously James Piot of Canton was named the GAM Men’s Player of the Year, Kimberly Dinh of Midland was named the Women’s Player of the Year, Terry Delcamp of Grand Blanc was named the Senior Women’s Player of the Year, Jerry Gunthorpe of Ovid was named the Senior Men’s Player of the Year, Rick Herpich of Orchard Lake was named the Super Senior Player of the Year, Sophie Stevens of Highland was named the Junior Girls’ Player of the Year, PJ Maybank III of Cheboygan was named the Junior Boys’ Player of the Year and Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor was named the 15-and-under Girls’ Player of the Year.
VanderMolen, a member through Gull Lake Country Club, won the 15-and-under bracket of the Michigan Junior Amateur Championship and was the GAM Junior Stroke Play champion to key his 1,211 points.
Cooper Reitsma of Ada and Cascade Hills Country Club had several top finishes across the season in finishing second with 965 points, and Connor Fox of Lake Orion and Indianwood Golf & Country Club, the GAM Junior Invitational 15-and-under winner, was third with 740 points.
Rounding out the top five were Connor Shea of Bonita Springs, Fla., and Oakland Hills Country Club with 463 points and Mitchell Strickland of Ann Arbor, a Youth on Course Michigan member with 410 points.
“I had one of my best summers with some of my best wins,” VanderMolen said. “It feels awesome to be Player of the Year.”
VanderMolen first made his presence known in GAM tournaments at age 10 as the youngest to ever qualify for the Michigan Junior Amateur Championship and at age 11 finished second in the national Drive, Chip and Putt Finals. He did the age-defying trick again this summer. He was 13 when he made the 36-hole cut at the Michigan Open Championship at The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort in the early summer. Despite incomplete records, he is believed to be the youngest to qualify for the starting field and the youngest to ever make the cut.
“I don’t feel any pressure being young and playing against older guys,” he said. “I just try to do my best in every tournament and what happens, happens.”
He said the best moment of the summer was when he followed up battling through stroke play and match play to win the Michigan Junior Amateur 15-and-under title by opening the GAM Junior Stroke Play Championship with a 5-under 66 at Forest Akers East. He went on to shoot 7-under and win the title the next day.
“Going through all those stages to win the Michigan Junior Amateur made me feel really good, but then to go right back out the next week and shoot 5-under, that showed I had my game at a high level,” he said. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”
VanderMolen, the son of Jim and Sarah VanderMolen and a student at Gagie Middle School in Kalamazoo, said he feels great about his progress in golf.
“Every year I’m getting better and it is showing,” he said. “I feel I can hit it farther and as I’m getting older I’m excited to see what happens.”
He said at this point he plans to play in the upper age divisions next summer in GAM tournaments.
“I want to test myself and that should help me keep improving,” he said.
Wolfe said VanderMolen continues to improve.
“Max has had a lot of early success in golf and sometimes that can be challenging for players to deal with those expectations, but I think Max’s mental game improved greatly this summer and he was able to put himself in the best position to win tournaments,” he said. “Max is a very powerful and skilled golfer and if he continues to work hard, he will definitely have success as he gets older.