Tiger Woods was crazy good at a ridiculously young age: At five years old, he was on the cover of Golf Digest magazine. At eight, he topped all competitors to win the Junior World Championship (JWC) in the youngest age group available, the 9-to-10-year-olds.

That year, he broke 80 for the first time (sorry to all those 40-something hackers still trying to break 90!). He went to win the JWC five more times.

But move over, Tiger. There’s a new kid in on the links.

Move over, Tiger. There’s a new kid in on the links.

At 3 feet 6 inches tall, weighing in at a whopping 37 pounds, James Grimes III, or “Baby James” to his golf buddies, is wowing the world with his skills. Even though he hasn’t even started kindergarten (!), he’s competing in the JWC this year, the youngest of more than 1,200 golfers.

A slew of top-tier golfers have come through the JWC: Jason Day, Craig Stadler, Nick Price, David Toms, Pat Perez, Anthony Kim, John Cook, and a guy named Eldrick Woods. The field is so talented at such a young age that golf coaches from colleges across the country flock to the tourney every year to eyeball the prospects.

And every year, they get younger. How young? Baby James was hitting a golf ball, making solid contact, with tiny plastic golf clubs before he could even walk. And he’s been getting better every day.

He became a star at age three, appearing in a few YouTuber video highlighting his skills (and for the record, Tiger was actually performing on TV shows like Mike Douglas at age two). But Baby James is taking it to a whole new level: He’s competing in the World Championships.

“He’s been asking me since he was three, ‘When am I going to go to California and play in (Junior World)?’” Nicole Grimes told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It’s happened so fast.” A true golfing mom, she drives BJ to a local golf course four times a week so he can play.

Erika Larkin, a PGA instructor deemed Middle Atlantic PGA Teacher of the Year, was amazed that someone that young could even get into the JWC. She should know: She competed in the tourney when she was 13.

“What I look for is a healthy, true love of the game that comes from the kid, not the parent. That seems to be the case here.”

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“Usually with a large national or world championship, there is a qualifying process to get to the main event. It a impressive to think he qualified from his state and region for his age group to move on to the finals. He must have beat some other kids older than him. Pretty cool,” she said.

And while some contend he might be doing too much too soon, Larkin said not to worry.

“What I look for is a healthy, true love of the game that comes from the kid, not the parent. That seems to be the case here. It’s a formula for success and long-term development,” she said.

Still, Larkin’s teaching partner, James Steigelman, also a PGA instructor, said there are a few dangers.

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 6: Tiger Woods as a two year old golf prodigy on THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW, October 6, 1978.  Image is a screen grab.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Tiger Woods as a two-year-old golf prodigy on The Mike Douglas Show, Oct. 6, 1978. (photo by CBS via Getty Images)

“I believe in shying away from early specialization in one sport at a young age. Youngsters who play only golf are only using one side of their body, and this can cause imbalances needed to created a sound, repeatable swing,” he said.

“I encourage kids to play multiple sports as they grow up. Golf is an athletic move that uses the ground. Jumping, running, kicking, throwing, and swinging should be apart of all young athletes’ lives to develop as an athlete first, then a golfer.” Steigelman added, “Exposing juniors to competition is another great way to get them comfortable in that situation.”

That’s just what the the Grimes family, who lives Louisiana, did. This week, they made the trek to the Colina Park golf course in San Diego so James could play in his first JWC.

On Monday, he striped his first drive down a shorter par-3 course (no 479-yard par 4s for his age; when he really pokes one, the ball goes about 50-75 yards). He made par. He sunk plenty of 4-foot putts (ask an older golfer how hard those can be), but it wasn’t his day in the end.

He wound up shooting 29 over par for an 83, 24 shots behind the leaders. But then again, he’s just four years old. He’ll be back — maybe for the next 15 years.

“That’d be great if he went to the PGA tour,” his mom said on ABC’s Nightline. “Who knows, he’s so little.”

But his proud dad said, “Maybe Tiger will be getting Baby James’ autograph.”


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