George and Eileen Wall have never worried about planning family vacations. With four boys playing competitive golf, three at an elite level, summers turned into weekly road trips.
While Augie, the eldest, eventually became a spectator and occasional caddie, the three youngest, Ethan (now 24), Jeremy (23) and Jack (18) created scheduling challenges for mom and dad.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a vacation where there hasn’t been a tournament,” said Jack.
Even when they weren’t competing, the other brothers often tagged along, which made for occasionally uncomfortable treks – especially at far-away events – in the family vehicle. George and his brother, Jeff, are the proprietors of George Wall Ford-Lincoln in Red Bank, N.J., a dealership started by their father in 1960, so the family prefers road trips.
“It’s fun in the beginning,” said Ethan of the longer excursions. “The first four hours are great, but then all of a sudden Jack will be sprawled across the middle seat sleeping.”
The Walls are about to embark on another “family” vacation this week when Ethan, Jeremy and Jack compete in the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Ethan and Jeremy, who played together at Loyola University in Baltimore, Md., a Division I school that competes in the Patriot League, qualified as one side, while Jack, who is headed to the University of South Carolina this fall, is partnering with fellow 2018 Christian Brothers Academy graduate Branden Hansen, 19, of Spring Lake, N.J. Hansen has signed to play at Rutgers.
For most, going to Bandon Dunes is the ultimate buddies’ trip. For the Wall brothers, a competitive component has been added.
“Typically, events that we are all in are Met [Golf Association] or New Jersey [State Golf Association] where we just wake up that morning and go,” said Ethan.
Adding to the specialness is the fact that George and Augie went with 14 others to Bandon Dunes Resort in 2017 on a buddies’ trip, a year before their brothers qualified for the championship on Sept. 11 at Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell, N.J.
Jack and Brendan were medalists at 10-under 62. Ethan and Jeremy shot 64 to garner the third and final spot.
They don’t remember celebrating too much after receiving their championship packets, although it was the first time Ethan had qualified for a USGA championship after many near-misses. “I think I’ve been an alternate or within two strokes [of qualifying] seven times,” said Ethan.
They’ve had eight months to absorb it all. If there’s any hubris, it’s Jeremy finding time to playfully jab his two siblings that this will be his sixth USGA appearance. Jack, who missed the cut in the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur, will make his second start.
“I am like MJ now,” said Jeremy, making a not-so-relatable reference to Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles.
But the real prize is the trip to Bandon Dunes. George and Augie have gushed about the venue. They have strongly suggested using local caddies, which Jack, Ethan and Brendan plan to do. Jeremy remains on the fence.
Then again, he’s a bit idiosyncratic. During his senior season at Loyola, he carried two drivers for a tournament at Penn State because he has a love-hate relationship with that club. Then at the Patriot League finals, he accidentally inserted a second driver before leaving his hotel room and was penalized four strokes for having 15 clubs. Loyola wound up losing by three strokes.
“I was thinking about bringing just 10 clubs out to Bandon,” said Jeremy, half-jokingly.
Given his short-game prowess, he might only need a handful of implements. Loyola coach Chris Baloga, himself a three-time U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier, gushes about Jeremy’s skill with a wedge and putter.
“Honestly, his short game is one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Baloga. “He is fascinating around the greens.”
Said Jack of his brother’s short game: “It’s sick and he’s not afraid to tell you.”