Charles James III has seen his golf game improve dramatically since he first became interested in the sport less than four years ago. In one sense, he might be considered one of "Chi Chi's kids."
James was inspired by the play of Chi Chi Rodriguez, who rose from poverty in Puerto Rico to achieve fame and fortune as a professional golfer and since has devoted much of his charitable energy to underprivileged children in his native land.
"I had no golf background, but I was watching the 1991 Senior Skins game on television, and Chi Chi excited me," James said recently. "The way he played, the way he handled himself -- it motivated me. He was having fun."
During the intervening years, James, 17, also has had fun playing golf. He has been successful with it, too.
An honor student throughout his high school years at City College, James recently was recognized for his efforts on and off the golf course when he was named this year's recipient of the Russ Menta Memorial Scholarship.
This annual award is presented by the Menta family in memory of their son, who was a young golfer, and with the cooperation of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation. It honors a young area golfer with a one-week scholarship to a Junior golfers camp in Pinehurst, N.C.
"Our criteria require membership in our Junior golf program, and the candidate must demonstrate leadership qualities, as well as excelling in school and on the golf course -- all attributes of Russ Menta," said Jon Ladd, director of golf for the BMGC.
"We interview each candidate, and committee members play a round of golf with them. We used to place more emphasis on actual play, but more recently our interest has been in the opportunity to associate with the candidates. It gives us a chance not only to watch them play, but to observe their on-course conduct, the way they handle themselves."
This has been quite a year for James. He won a flight championship in the Forest Park GC men's club spring championship, then stepped up a flight and was runner-up in the fall championship. A third-year member of Forest Park's team in the BMGC's Junior Inter-Club program, he won the Paragon Junior Open and was third in the Baltimore County Junior tournament.
The Menta Scholarship led directly to other honors. He received the sportsmanship award at the Pinehurst camp and made such an impression that he was invited to return next summer as a counselor.
"My discipline, on and off the golf course, comes from my parents," James said. "They got me started in doing what was right and have been supportive of my golf."
He is quick to cite the help he has received from the professional staffs at the Clifton Park and Forest Park courses, particularly Tim Sanders, formerly an assistant and now head pro at Forest Park.
This week's schedule
Today--Challenge Cup (Publinx vs. Private players), Eagle's Nest, 7 a.m. Tuesday--Mid-Atlantic Superintendents monthly meeting, Rolling Road GC, noon. Wednesday-Thursday--Middle Atlantic PGA Tournament of Champions, Old South CC, 8 a.m. Thursday--Maryland State 2-Woman team championship, Green Spring VHC, 8 a.m. Friday-Saturday-Sunday--Congressional CC 2-man team invitational, 11 a.m. (Friday), 9 a.m. Saturday-Sunday).