Jake Beber-Frankel stands out in junior golf – and not just because of his hair

Brentley Romine/Golfweek

Jake Beber-Frankel stands out in junior golf – and not just because of his hair

Junior

Jake Beber-Frankel stands out in junior golf – and not just because of his hair

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – Jake Beber-Frankel doesn’t mind standing out.

He hasn’t had an actual haircut since he was 7 years old. The result is an impressive head of wavy brown hair that pokes out from beneath his hat and flows down to his shoulders. On the golf course, it’s not uncommon for the 16-year-old to dress in bright colors: pink pants, white belts, vivid polos that look like they’ve been charged overnight. He wears a gold chain fitted with a Peruvian charm, even though he’s never been to Peru.

“He’s got his own spin on things,” said Clay Merchent, Beber-Frankel’s friend and fellow junior golfer.

Beber-Frankel certainly showcases exceptional flair, including the talent he possesses with a golf club in his hands. The Miami native is ranked 31st overall in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, fifth among golfers in the Class of 2020. He nearly won one of the AJGA’s flagship invitationals, the Junior Players Championship, last summer before losing in a playoff at TPC Sawgrass. He already has visited Stanford, Duke and USC.

The success is far from surprising. Greatness is in Beber-Frankel’s blood.

His father, David Frankel, won Academy and Emmy awards as a film director. His credits include “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Marley and Me” and “Collateral Beauty.” David Frankel also attended Harvard along with Jake’s mother, Jennifer Beber. Jake’s twin sister, Phoebe, hopes to follow her parents to an Ivy League institution, and she has the golf talent to help her get there, having already won on the AJGA circuit.

Jake’s paternal grandfather, Max Frankel, might have the most impressive resume. Max was born in 1930 to a Jewish family in Gera, Germany. Ten years later he escaped Nazi rule and, knowing little English, came to the U.S., where he attended Columbia College and worked for the New York Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and 13 years later became the Times’ executive editor.

Most would look at Jake’s impressive lineage and see a big shoes to fill. Only Jake has never been intimidated by his roots but rather inspired, especially by his grandfather.

“I have so many opportunities to be successful,” Jake said, “and for him he pretty much had to do it all himself.”

Jake and his sister, Phoebe, are pictured with their dad, David, and actress Anne Hathaway at a dinner party promoting the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ during the 2006 Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. (Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)

Beber-Frankel’s instructor of 10 years, Mike Myles, notices a strong work ethic in the young golfer, who was also a skilled tennis player until giving up the sport at age 10.

“Jake has always been a very focused, competitive perfectionist,” said Myles, who runs Prime Players Golf and teaches at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne, Fla. “Early on he absorbed everything like a sponge. By the time he was 8, I could tell that he had the desire and the talent to be really good.”

Beber-Frankel is a sophomore at Ransom Everglades, a demanding private school in Coconut Grove, Fla., and typically only gets about three hours a day to practice during the school year. His discipline, though, allows him to get the most out of his practice time, even in sweltering South Florida summers.

“If there were videos, they would be of me pulling him off the range, not pushing him to the range,” David Frankel said. “That work ethic is key to everything in life. The more you put into it the more you’re going to get out of it.”

Said Myles: “Some kids, I have to motivate or push them. I never have to do that with Jake.”

Beber-Frankel is fueled by competition, especially from Phoebe, whose trophy collection grew more rapidly than her brother’s at first, mostly because she played against smaller fields. Her first tournament, at age 7, was against just one other girl.

“She would get all the trophies, and I’d come home with just a medal,” Jake said. “… Her shelves were more full for a long time.”

It was Phoebe who first got Jake into the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship because of a rule that allowed siblings of qualifiers to participate. The Frankels made the annual pilgrimage to Pinehurst for eight straight years, and despite their busy schedules have always made time for their kids. While Jennifer was with Jake last fall at the Ping Invitational in Stillwater, Okla., David was with Phoebe at an AJGA event in Greensboro, Ga.

It’s rare for all four to be together on a golf course, yet it’s happened twice in big events in the past year: last summer when Phoebe caddied for Jake as he advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur in Kansas, and last month when Jake competed at the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.

“It always gets my heart racing,” David Frankel said of seeing his kids compete.

Jake hits a shot during the 2018 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club. (Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

When Jake was younger, though, it wasn’t easy to watch him play. Jake called himself an “insane child.” He placed high expectations on himself, and when he hit a bad shot he would act out in anger.

“At some point during the round he’d be crying or screaming or kicking his bag,” Myles said, “and it was really disruptive.”

Then came Beber-Frankel’s defining moment. He was 11 and playing a U.S. Kids event with Merchent in Scotland. After a display of poor behavior, Merchent’s father, Mike, pulled Beber-Frankel aside and sternly told him to get his emotions under control.

“He never threw a tantrum on the course ever again,” David Frankel said.

The improvement in Beber-Frankel’s composure on the course is remarkable. More impressive, though, is his humbleness. Sure, Beber-Frankel grew up walking red carpets with his father, but he also frequented David’s movie sets as a kid. The behind-the-scenes looks further opened his eyes to the rigors of show business.

“It’s so glamorous and entertaining on the outside,” Beber-Frankel said. “But to put it all together, it takes a ton of work, and a lot of it people don’t ever see that.”

The same could be said of Beber-Frankel’s golf game. On the outside, it’s the crazy hair, the flashy clothes, the 110-mph swing speed, the breakneck pace of play.

But on the inside is a burning desire for greatness and the fearlessness to stand out. Gwk

(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May 2018 print issue of Golfweek Magazine.)

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