Eli Mitchell and Brady Lagendyk had been planning to team up in Northwood Country Club’s Jimmy Gamblin Labor Day Tournament for more than a month.
The two have known each other for years as members of Northwood, and they’re also teammates on Lamar School’s four-time defending state champion golf team. They had never played together in one of Northwood’s three major tournaments, however, nor had they ever done the scramble format together.
Perhaps the first time was the charm. After shooting a 58 on the first day, the pair shot a 63 in the second round to win the tournament. Mitchell is a senior in high school, while Lagendyk is a freshman, making them younger than most of the field.
“I think that was the lowest two-man scramble (score) I shot,” Mitchell said.
With decades more experience in their favor, it would have been easy for Mitchell and Lagendyk to go into the tournament just wanting to keep pace instead of believing they could win it. That was never the mindset for either player.
“That’s always the goal: play the best I can, and if it puts me in a position to win, great,” Lagendyk said. “If not, we’ll get them next time.”
The pair have faced off against Northwood’s older golfers in more recreational settings and done well, Mitchell explained, so they weren’t lacking in confidence.
“We know we can win,” Mitchell said. “We’ve beaten them on a normal day, so we knew we had a chance, but we also knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
The two-person scramble format means both team members shoot off a tee then play off whichever shot they like better. This allowed Mitchell and Lagendyk to complement each other’s strengths and strategize how they attacked each hole.
“I’d hit a drive and free Eli to hit it a little farther or take a riskier shot,” Lagendyk said. “Then we’d hit a wedge up there and tap in the putt.”
Said Mitchell, “He was really consistent off the tee. I could count on him hitting the fairway so I could go for something farther down. We were just a good combination.”
With a morning tee time on Labor Day, Mitchell left Northwood to practice with the Lamar football team after his round. He was summoned back that afternoon to be presented with the trophy along with Lagendyk.
“It was a little hurried, but I had done that before, so it wasn’t too bad,” Mitchell recalled. “It was exciting to win.”
In addition to the thrill of victory, Lagendyk said the most rewarding thing about the experience was how the other Northwood members reacted.
“It felt really good knowing that a lot of people out there were happy and supportive of us,” Lagendyk said. “Our dads push us a lot, and they expected us to do as well as we can.”
The pair’s success this past Labor Day wasn’t unforeseen, as Lagendyk and Mitchell are two of Lamar’s top three golfer’s on the school’s team, along with sophomore Ross Polizzi. Lagendyk has been playing for the Raiders since sixth grade, and he’s looked up to Mitchell as a mentor ever since then.
“With Eli, everything works together for him,” Lagendyk said. “He hits the ball a long way, his irons are pretty solid and hits putts get the job done. He says golf is simple: hit fairways, hit greens, then two-putt.”
Mitchell said he remembers when Lagendyk first joined the Raiders as a sixth grader and knew he had potential back then.
“He didn’t hit it far but had a good short game, which helped keep his numbers low,” Mitchell said.
In three years, Lagendyk said his mental game has improved, and he’s gotten better at striking the ball. However, he feels his putting has weakened, and his goal is to improve that aspect in hopes of being able to play beyond the high school level.
“I’ve always wanted to play at Yale,” Lagendyk said. “My mom (Kerri Lagendyk) graduated from there, and I decided probably in the third grade that I wanted to play college golf.”
Mitchell has already decided where he wants to play in college, as he recently committed to South Alabama.
“They just finished a brand new facility,” Mitchell said. “I like the coach (Ben Hannan) and the size of the school. Everything there is growing and new.”
It’s been a good month for younger Northwood members. In addition to Mitchell and Lagendyk winning the Jimmy Gamblin tournament, Georgia Tech senior Andy Ogletree won the 2019 U.S. Amateur and was a member of the U.S. national team that won the Walker Cup this past weekend. Lagendyk and Mitchell both said they were excited to follow Ogletree when he played in the U.S. Amateur.
“Knowing you can play with him when he’s in town, it’s cool to have someone who’s won something so prestigious,” Mitchell said.
Said Lagendyk, “Andy is one of those guys who inspires you to push harder, because you want to have the same influence on the community.”
Lagendyk runs cross country, but those practices are usually in the morning, giving him the evenings to practice golf. With the bulk of his fall dedicated to football, Mitchell limits himself to one or two tournaments once football begins, and he’ll sometimes practice on the driving range or work on his putting. Other than that, fall is a rest period for Mitchell as far as golf goes — though he’s already thinking ahead to the spring, when Lamar will try for a fifth-straight state championship.
“I think we can be good,” Mitchell said. “Me, Brady and Ross are the only three returning from the team, so we’ll have to get three more guys, and I think we can do it.”
Like Mitchell, Lagendyk is confident Lamar can win another state championship, especially since he, Mitchell and Polizzi play well off one another.
“All three of us push each other, so if one has a good day, that pushes us to stay on pace and beat them,” Lagendyk said. “We’re all very competitive.”
Mitchell is the son of Hope and Gerry Mitchell, while Lagendyk is also the son of Michael Lagendyk.