At just seven years-old, Jerrell Anthony already drives a golf ball more than 100 yards. The golf prodigy from Hoover has won several tournaments, sometimes playing against kids twice his age. Jerrell is in Pinehurst, North Carolina, this week competing with more than 1,400 children ages 12 and under in the World Championship kids golf tournament.
We meet Jerrell at a practice before competition at the Oxmoor Valley course in Birmingham. He’s by far the best dressed golfer on this hot afternoon. It’s important to look the part, even when you play as well as he does. In his silky red polo shirt, black cargo shorts and sparkling white Ricky Fowler golf shoes, Jerrell explains the most important tools of the trade: his golf clubs.
Jerrell plays several sports. Funny enough, golf isn’t even his favorite; it’s basketball. Jerrell’s love for golf started when he was a toddler.
“The first time that I saw my dad playing on the golf course,” Jerrell says. “I saw him when I was two years-old.”
His dad, Curtis Anthony, would take him to the golf course and Jerrell would hit balls off a tee with a set of little plastic golf clubs. That’s when Curtis first noticed his son’s talent. Now, the second-grader has a set of professional golf clubs and competes against kids twice his age. Jerrell’s coaches say he’s everything an instructor could dream of.
Chip Thomas is Jerrell’s private coach. He says Jerrell is special. He’s so special, that Thomas stepped away from his wife and new-born baby – with her blessing – to train Jerrell for the tournament in Pinehurst.
Jerrell isn’t shy about disagreeing with Thomas, who says that’s a good thing.
“I want someone to have a little stubbornness, a little idea of their own on what to do,” he says. “And so, then you’re more of a consultant. You’re more of guiding them towards the target as opposed to teaching them. You know, you teach a baby, but you coach an adult.”
Thomas is African American, and this is important. Jerrell is also black, and noticed early on there aren’t a lot of professional golfers that look like him. Curtis says people are constantly comparing his son to Tiger Woods, the most recognizable black golfer. But Jerrell is too young to have seen him play. That’s when Curtis decided it was time to unleash the Tiger … through YouTube.
“He sees Tiger Woods for 15 minutes, and now he’s one of his favorite golfers,” he says. “And I know it has something to do because he looks like him.”
Curtis says he and his wife, Caprenia, are trying to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in their son through golf that will hopefully stay with him as he grows. With the help of his parents, Jerrell has created a brand, JA Golfer, through which he sells golf apparel.
“That’s what I’m most proud of and most excited about because his little light goes off every time he makes a sale,” Curtis says. “We practice business words like inventory, profit. So that’s the part I’m excited about.”
But most importantly, Curtis and Caprenia are teaching Jerrell to have fun and be a kid. After all, he is still only seven.