U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Beber-Frankel Directing His Own Path in Golf July 17, 2017 | Andover, Kan. By Stuart Hall

Jake Beber-Frankel has his twin sister Phoebe on the bag this week to help keep him loose in his first USGA championship. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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There was never a concerted effort to introduce Jake Beber-Frankel to the game of golf.

His father, David Frankel, grew up an avid tennis player. His mother, Jennifer Beber, grew up a “book worm with no interest in any sport.” So, around the age of 6, Jake stumbled upon the game through a friend and a tennis coach who also taught golf.

The bond to the game was nurtured through regular treks to Pinehurst, N.C., where Beber-Frankel and his twin sister Phoebe would compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

“Going to Pinehurst early on as a kid was like going to the Olympics, and it’s the kind of thing that motivates you,” Frankel said of Jake and Phoebe. “Even though it took them years and years before they ever did really well there, the rewards of the game, the friends they made, the joy of all the travel we did … golf really fed their appetite.”

And the game continues to nourish 15-year-old Beber-Frankel, of Miami, Fla., who is competing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Flint Hills National Golf Club. His sister, who qualified for last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and is an alternate for this year’s championship, is serving as his caddie.

“I want to enjoy the experience,” Beber-Frankel said. “Her jokes will probably keep me looser than if my coach caddied for me. I want to make sure I have a good time and pay attention to how nice everything is.”

Follow Beber-Frankel around a golf course for any length of time and a few things become quite apparent.

First, there is his shoulder-length hair that flows freely from beneath his cap. Aside from occasional trims, Beber-Frankel has not had a full-fledged haircut since about the age of 7.

“I’m used to it,” he said smiling when asked if the thick locks are oppressive in the summer heat.

Second, he plays at a breakneck pace.

At one point midway through Sunday’s practice round, Beber-Frankel finished his due diligence on the first green, walked to the second hole’s teeing ground and hit his drive before his playing partners were finished on the green behind him.

“He’s a bit of a renegade,” said Frankel of his son. “He likes flashy clothes and has always been a flashy dresser on the golf course. He has a remarkably calm demeanor on the golf course. You can’t tell from his body language whether he is 4 under or 4 over.”

In essence, he is an average young teen finding his own way. He need not look far to see the unique possibilities.

Jake and Phoebe Beber-Frankel joined their father David at the premiere of "The Devil Wears Prada" in 2006. (David Frankel)

His grandfather, Max Frankel, spent his entire career with the New York Times, winning the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of President Richard Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China and serving as executive editor from 1986 to 1994. His mother is president of Beber Silverstein Group, a Miami-based marketing and public relations firm. And his father is an Academy and Emmy Award-winning director whose credits include “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Marley & Me.”

“I try to learn from them by getting them to tell me stories about their experiences,” said Beber-Frankel, whose interests away from golf include history and the arts. “But they never really played sports at this high of a level, so hopefully athletics can take me on a different path.”

In a roundabout way, he has seen the dedication needed to forge a successful route through occasional visits to his father’s movie sets.

“You get to see how much time and work it takes and the amount of direction a movie project needs,” he said. “You see the work ethic it takes and how it’s not as perfect and glamorous as the final product.”

There have been a couple of moments that have signified to Beber-Frankel that perhaps he is heading in the right direction.

At the 2011 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, he tied for 11th in the Boys 9 and under age group after shooting rounds of 74-75-75.

“At that point, I was like ‘Oh … I have a chance to be good,’” he said.

At last year’s Press Thornton Future Masters in Dothan, Ala., Beber-Frankel opened with a 7-under 63 and eventually tied for third in the 13-14 age division.

“Something clicked for him,” David Frankel said. “He later told me he went from standing on the tee thinking about how he was going to make par to standing on the tee thinking about how he was going to make birdie.”

Beber-Frankel admits to not giving a lot of thought to how his golf future will unfold. For now, he tries to stay in the present just as he does on the course.

“It’s so different from the real world,” he said of golf. “You’re just focusing on one shot at a time, one hole at a time, and just one idea — and that’s to hit a good shot. Nothing else at that moment matters.”

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites. 

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