Two of the best high school golfers in South Jersey packed up their clubs and headed south this winter for a rare opportunity they hope will translate to success back home.
Wildwood Catholic sophomore Blake Vogdes and 2012 Press Player of the Year Cody Dazen of St. Augustine Prep spent the better part of two months at the Core Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., working with some of the top professionals in the sport while avoiding terrible New Jersey winter weather .
“I was blessed by my parents with the opportunity I was given to go down there,” said Vogdes, 15, of Wildwood Crest. “For my game, to be able to go down there in the winter, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Not many kids get to do that.”
Vogdes and Dazen roomed together while at the academy. The two attended morning classes at the school, which allows actors and athletes with hectic schedules to receive individualized instruction and tutoring.
Then it was off the golf course in the afternoon.
Vogdes said there weren’t more than two or three days during his time in Florida that he didn’t play or practice golf.
One of the highlights for Vogdes came on a day when he was working alone on his game Famed instructor Sean Foley, who has worked with Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, was working with European tour player Edoardo Molinari when he came across Vogdes. Foley proceeded to work directly with Vogdes for close to an hour.
“He works with some of the greatest players in the world,” Vogdes said. “He’s a very smart man, so to be able to meet him, let alone work with him, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Vogdes and Dazen have become friends through the years while playing in many of the same youth tournaments and events.
“It was really nice to create a little bit of a bond,” said Dazen, 18, of Shamong Township (Burlington County). “We really pushed each other. We both know we’re going to be competing this year, so it was nice to have him by my side. We really pushed each other to really try and gear up for the season.”
Dazen had gone to the academy and worked with Foley and Core director of operations Jeff Hay in the past.
“I was basically looking to get in a warm-up for the season for a few months,” Dazen said. “It was a little big of a graduation present, too.”
Dazen won Press Player of the Year honors last season after winning titles in the Cape-Atlantic League Individual and Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial tournaments. Dazen had the lowest nine-hole average in the CAL with a sub-par 35.6. He committed to play and was accepted into the honors program at the University of Delaware.
Dazen will be one of the favorites to win every time he steps on a course this season.
Vogdes had one of the top five averages (37.9) in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference and finished tied for 17th at the Arena.
Vogdes plays at Wildwood Golf & Country Club and works with PGA pro John Appleget. Vogdes said he felt fortunate to avoid the barrage of storms that came through the area the past two months leading up to the beginning of the high school golf season.
Vogdes also said he plans to play golf in college one day and that experiences such as the trip to Core Academy can only help prepare him.
“I met a lot of new kids, a lot of great people and learned a lot of new information,” Vogdes said. “It was kind of like the experience of college — having to live on your own, doing your own laundry and basically taking care of yourself.
“I feel a lot better about my game and what I need to do to stay motivated and keep getting better. I feel good about my game and where I am right now.”
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