Before identical twins David and Maxwell Ford became forces in junior golf circles, their mom used to dress David in blue and Maxwell in red, and for good reason.
“I did it so the neighbors could tell them apart at the bus stop,” Karen Ford said with a chuckle.
To Maxwell, it’s more than mere coincidence that his brother signed to wear Carolina Blue at University of North Carolina next fall while he is headed to wear red at Georgia.
It’s hard enough to raise one American Junior Golf Association star; the Ford brothers of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, are both ranked highly in the Golfweek Junior Rankings – David is second, Maxwell 12th – and theirs is a healthy rivalry. When they play a tournament, the first goal is to beat one another and the next is to beat the field. For as long as Chris Moore, Atlanta Athletic Club’s junior golf leader, has known the boys, they have preferred to be paired in back-to-back groups, which helps their parents’ spectating and allows the brothers to keep an eye on each other.
“I try to think of him as just another guy on the golf course, but it can get a little more personal than that because he’s my brother,” David said. “I think we push each other a lot because we hate losing to each other, so it makes us practice harder and more efficiently.”
“People compare us, naturally,” Maxwell said. “It’s a struggle, but I’ve been doing it all my life and I’m getting better at it. I’m trying to get better at it anyway. He’s been beating me and telling me he’s beating me, and it’s getting in my head.”
Until recently, Maxwell outperformed his brother. At two AJGA events in 2018, the brothers swept the qualifiers and tournaments: David won the qualifier and Maxwell the tournament at the 2018 Evitt Foundation RTC Junior All-Star, and the brothers flip-flopped results at the 2018 AJGA Junior All-Star at Butte Creek.
Maxwell pulled ahead by winning the 2018 AJGA Junior All-Stars at Cooks Creek and the prestigious Jones Cup Junior Invitational in December but hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish this calendar year as he’s experienced a six-inch growth spurt that has proved to be a bigger adjustment to his swing than anticipated.
Meanwhile, David put on a ballstriking clinic to claim the AJGA Invitational at Sedgefield in June, then in September shot 66 in the final round to rally from seven strokes back and win the Junior Players Championship at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. At the trophy ceremony at Sedgefield, home of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, David credited his brother for pushing him to greater heights. Well, sort of.
“I was walking off the podium and one of my friends said, ‘Really? You’re not going to thank your brother.’ I was like, ‘Wait everybody, I have to thank my brother. He beats me a lot, so I want to thank him for that.’”
“He really doesn’t like losing to me,” Maxwell confirmed. “He’s had some blowups.”
None more so than when playing Ping-Pong. The Ford brothers are known to pack their own paddles when traveling in hopes a game breaks out during downtime at golf tournaments. Maxwell concedes his brother is better than him at table tennis, but there was a day where Maxwell beat him five times in a row and David smashed his paddle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that mad,” David said. “Ping-Pong has this way of exaggerating the emotions on the golf course.”
These 17-year-old mirror twins – David swings left-handed while Maxwell is a righty – are actually triplets. Sister Abigail popped out first and is the oldest by two minutes, weighing 3 pounds 7 ounces, followed by Maxwell at 2 pounds 14 ounces, and finally David, who tipped the scales at all of 2 pounds 7 ounces. If David had been chasing Maxwell in the rankings for the last few years, the roles have reversed and now it is Maxwell being pushed by David in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
While most teenage brothers are wont to sleep in and lounge around playing video games on the weekend, the Ford brothers are a different breed.
“That’s not David Ford. He’s up and beating everyone to the golf course and stays until dark,” Moore said. “I can’t coach him to take a day off. He’s got an energy and desire to be a champion, and that’s the stuff you can’t coach.”
It’s not uncommon for Maxwell, the more analytical of the two, to wake up, realize his brother already has left for the course and conclude he better get there, too. Especially after David ended Maxwell’s two-year reign as AAC’s men’s champion with a 54-hole club record 19-under par aggregate (two rounds played at Highlands Course, one at Riverside Course), including a final-round 63. But it was what David said and did in the aftermath of his victory that most impressed Moore.
“He said, ‘I’ve got to get on the putting green. I missed some putts today that I should’ve made.’ That was after a 63,” Moore said. “That’s his mentality.”
That’s the way these brothers roll. After all, they’re built Ford tough.
This story initially appeared in Issue 5 of Golfweek magazine.