Long before David and Maxwell Ford became junior golf stars and highly sought-after recruits destined for major college golf, the identical twins were recognized by their respective colors of red and blue.
When the two played hockey, David would have blue tape on his helmet and Maxwell would get red. On the golf course they were typically set one tee time apart so their family could easily watch both kids, their attire often being red or blue so everyone at the tournament could tell who was who.
The Ford brothers ran through junior golf in their colors. Raised by their mother, Karen, and father, Patrick, a former golfer at Georgia State, the boys developed their skills at Atlanta Athletic Club – where they have traded club championships – down the road from their Peachtree Corners home. They were homeschooled from the age of 10 so they could play more golf, eventually attending Rivers Academy, a school set up for actors, athletes, singers and other performers to pursue their passions without traditional stressors of education.
Buoyed by that structure, David became the No. 1 ranked junior in the country on the strength of a dominant 2020 where he won the Rolex Tournament of Champions, the Junior Players Championship and AJGA Invitational at Sedgefield. Maxwell was a top recruit himself after winning the 2019 Jones Cup Junior and last year’s Wyndham Invitational to pair with a runner-up at the prestigious Terra Cotta Invitational. The two have flip-flopped several times in terms of rankings and development, but there is little difference between their talent levels.
And where did these red and blue clad 19-year-old twins decide to attend college?
David went to North Carolina, where he still wears blue.
Maxwell went to Georgia, where he still wears red.
“It’s kind of weird how that happened,” David says with a laugh.
“Our relationship suffered because of how competitive we were. But after some time away from him (at college), I feel like I can see all the times where I was way too competitive and not as nice and that may have pushed him away from wanting to come to college with me.” – David Ford
Golf twins of such an ability are a rare commodity, but the topic has been top of mind recently. Danish youngsters Rasmus and Nicolai Højgaard have both won on the DP World Tour and reached the top 100 of the OWGR, the two admitting that they dream of playing on the same Ryder Cup team like Francesco and Edoardo Molinari – who are brothers but not twins – did in 2010 at Celtic Manor. And with Leona Maguire winning her first LPGA Tour event and continuing to ascend in the women’s game, we’re reminded that her twin, Lisa, was a former top-10 amateur in the world who retired after a brief pro career.
If the Ford brothers are to recreate that type of success, it will come with a few notable differences to previous golf twins. For starters, they are the rare swing reflection twins; David is a lefty and Maxwell is a righty. For another, they are actually two of three in a set of triplets. Their sister, Abigail, is a freshman at Georgia who more or less wants nothing to do with golf. Abigail is the oldest by two minutes, followed by Maxwell and then David. They were particularly small at birth as both Maxwell (2 pounds, 14 ounces) and David (2 pounds, 7 ounces) were far below average birth weight. Now as college freshmen, the two are a similar build to Justin Thomas, both sporting long brown hair that spills out the back of their caps.
But the one factor that stands out when you talk to the Ford brothers is that their competitiveness has, at least in some ways, strained their relationship. Is it adversarial to the point where they don’t love each other? Absolutely not. However, there is a reason they ended up at different schools.
They needed space to grow on their own.
“I remember we hadn’t really talked together about it (on our own) if we wanted to go to college together,” David said. “But when the coaches would ask us when we were in the room together, we would be able to talk about it. And we were both like, ‘I don’t know, I have no idea,’ because we were so competitive.
“Our relationship suffered because of how competitive we were. But after some time away from him (at college), I feel like I can see all the times where I was way too competitive and not as nice and that may have pushed him away from wanting to come to college with me. But I think Georgia is a really, really good fit for him. … If he ever wanted to transfer here, I would not be opposed to it right now.”
David was the first to commit to UNC back in the fall of 2019. Maxwell narrowed his list down to North Carolina, Georgia and Georgia Tech. The opportunity was there for the brothers to play together on a talented Tar Heels roster that includes last year’s U.S. Amateur runner-up Austin Greaser.
“I had to figure out whether I wanted to go with him there or go to Georgia and kind of do my own thing,” Maxwell said. “But Georgia just felt like the right place. … I think it’s been good for us. Growing up, we were always competing against each other and everything we did, like it was golf, hockey, basketball, swimming, ping pong – it didn’t matter. And now we are competing against each other but we’re not together all the time so it doesn’t feel that way. Which I think has been good.
“It’s kind of made us step back and realize that we don’t always have to be competing and on edge with each other.”
The assumption is that the Ford brothers are most intense on the golf course, but that strain on their relationship actually displays itself most in another sport: ping pong.
These are fierce matches. They both travel with their own paddles and scope out housing with table tennis when possible. Paddles have been smashed on occasion. They are not immune to emotional meltdowns.
David was, and possibly still is, considered the better ping pong player, but they played endlessly over the winter break and Maxwell won the majority of the games. It gets salty when someone loses.
“(David’s) argument is that my ping pong game is built to counter his because we played so much together growing up that eventually my skills just changed so that I would always expect what he’s going to do,” Maxwell said. “That way he can’t beat me.”
Added David: “My fundamentals are better and I beat a lot of people that he has no shot beating. … I would say I’m better. When we play each other it’s a draw just because of how the match is set up.”
There’s not as much of a style difference on the course, which both brothers admitted only amplifies the competitiveness.
“If you were looking at a field of 70 college golfers and picked out the five most similar golf games, we are probably in the same category,” David said.
In junior golf, both teenagers used to take the tactic of trying to beat their brother first and then figuring out how to beat the field. That dynamic has evolved. Their schedules, once as identical as their facial expressions, are incongruent. Last week, Maxwell finished tied for 24th against one of the deepest amateur fields of the year at Jones Cup. David was off with his team in Hawaii at the Amer Ari Invitational, a top college event with an equally terrific field, where he shot 64 in the second round and finished tied for sixth. David has five top-15 finishes in his first six college starts and is inside the top 30 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. For Maxwell, qualifying to start five events to this point as a UGA freshman is notable in and of itself – he’s had a couple of top-20 finishes to get him started on the right foot and has cracked the top 200 of the WAGR.
No matter who is ahead at any given time, it must be a feeling of emotional claustrophobia when you are a twin with matching passions. There are constant comparisons. Everything you do is measured against the other.
Now that college has started, they both sound like young men gaining perspective on their relationship with each other and with themselves. They can stay competitive and harness that energy towards being great players, but it doesn’t have to define their twinhood.
When you mention the Højgaard twins and the possibility of both Fords rising up through the pro game one day, you can tell a change in their voices.
“That’s an unspoken goal that I have, and he might also,” Maxwell said. “That would be really cool if we were eventually one and two in the world. You never know. We’ll see how far we can go.”
For now they are separate, but their destinations may put them back together.
If they get there, they can each thank the other.
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