MEET JR Ellis – the young city golf hot-shot set to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson when he competes on the biggest junior stage of them all this summer.
For a 10-year-old boy, Jason Royce Ellis – to give him his full name – plays a level of golf well beyond his years.
But you have to start them young if they’re going to reach the top, and the top is exactly where he looks to be heading.
JR, as he is and prefers to be known, has recently won the right to play at the prestigious Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, USA – the breeding ground for any young superstar, including the likes of Ernie Els and Jason Day.
If he wins that event then he would be the first Briton to ever do so, and would be instantly catapulted into potential future stardom – not that it would be a problem for JR who, according to mum Jo, is already adamant that he’s going to be make his living from the sport.
“Getting him to school can be a nightmare,” she said. “He’s an eccentric little character and all he thinks about is golf.
“I’m trying to be level headed about it because being able to read and write properly needs to be the priority at his age, but we don’t want to hold him back from doing what he loves, and what he obviously has a talent for.”
JR has competed in junior competitions all over the UK, but his trip to the USA in July would be the first time he has ever played overseas. But that will only be possible if his family can raise the money needed for the flights and accommodation, which totals around £6,000.
JR receives support from American Golf in Milton Keynes who supply him with tees and balls, and Sub70 who kit him out in the type of golfing clobber that makes him look a lot older than he really is, which is quite convenient when you consider that he spends most of his time playing against kids in their mid to late teens.
But mum Jo is hoping someone will take a punt on JR and give him the sort of support that would make it possible for him to compete more regularly on the international stage.
“We hope someone will invest in JR because we believe he has the ability and potential for great things,” she said.
“We’ve had to turn down the chance for him to play at the San Diego Junior Masters and Hawaiian Classic over the past few months, but we really don’t want him to miss this chance.
“I sat down with my husband Jason the other night and we finally started to realise that golf really is a rich man’s sport. We’re lucky with the help we get but this is different and very expensive.”
JR’s golfing talent was discovered by accident when he joined his dad at the driving range at Abbey Hill when he was just six years old.
He instantly showed great potential and it wasn’t long before he was playing in and winning junior tournaments, both there and at Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands Golf Club where he is now also a member.
Over the last couple of years, while improving with coach Dave Armor, he has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, before stunning everyone but himself recently when he sank a 102-yard hole-in-one at Abbey Hill.
“He’d been talking about doing it for some time,” said Jo, who with husband Jason own a carpet selling company in Milton Keynes.
“So when he did it he wasn’t really surprised, just pleased to have finally done it.
“He can drive the ball more than 200 yards, which we’re told is very good for someone his age, plus he’s well built for a 10-year-old, with broad shoulders. He is built like a golfer.
“But he’s also very strong mentally, maybe because he’s the youngest of our four children, or because he’s just so driven to become a professional and make a living out of golf.
“He jokes that he wants the sort of extravagant lifestyle that people like Ian Poulter have. JR wrote to him once and Ian’s mum turned up at our house with a signed cap that he wore in the 2006 Open.
“That was a big surprise, and JR was brilliant when he met him at the Woburn open day last year. He’s very confident and they seemed to get on really well. He asked Ian if he recognised his cap!.”
JR has enjoyed success at his local clubs, on the county stage, the British Junior Golf Tour and the European Kids Championship over the past couple of years. But now his mum is keen to see how he gets on against the best young players from all over the world.
He’s one of only three British kids to win a place at the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego and will go up against 150 others from all over the globe in his age group.
That means taking time off from his day-to-day routine at Loughton Middle School, but Jo says they have been very supportive, even in light of JR recently being diagnosed with dyslexia.
“He has lots of great idea and skills, but sometimes struggles to put them down into words,” she said.
“He’s always been very sporty. Even before the golf came along he was an excellent swimmers, played tag rugby and did kickboxing.
“But what he lacks in some areas he more than makes up for in terms of his golfing ability. We just want to be able to give him the financial support he needs to reach his potential.”