Dave Wiggins Jr. is 5 foot 9, 100 pounds soaking wet. He had the look of your average 13-year-old kid as he prepared Thursday for a Par 5 approach on Hole No. 12 of the U.S. Disc Golf Championship at Winthrop University.
In one fell swoop and the flick of his wrist, Wiggins Jr. becomes a man. All preconceived notions about the pint-sized prodigy went out the window when he unleashed a 300-foot drive approach on the 600-foot hole.
The five-time Junior World champion is the youngest to ever compete in the U.S. Disc Golf Championship, where he's facing competitors 20 years his senior. He won his first international competition at 9 years old, won his first pro tournament at the North Carolina Flying Disc Championships a couple weeks ago and now competes against the best his sport has to offer.
The U.S. Disc Golf Championship is a gathering of the best in the disc-throwing game patented after golf in which players take multiple shots in an attempt to send their discs sailing into an awaiting metal basket laced with chain-linked nets. The international tournament boasts a lineup rivaling that of the Olympics, with disc throwers flying in from France, Great Britain, Japan and Denmark, among other countries. Not to mention that all 50 states have competitors in the field.
Jonathan Poole, event coordinator, said Wiggins Jr. has a wealth of potential.
"He's a great story, and this is a great experience for somebody who is still young enough to be a phenom if he continues to do this," Poole said.
How'd the eighth-grader get such a big serve? Wiggins Jr. grew up in High Point, N.C., down the street from Johnson's Disc Golf Course.
He and his dad, Dave Wiggins Sr., began practicing on the course when Wiggins Jr. was 4 years old, without any knowledge of what the future had in store.
"I couldn't imagine (playing at the pro level) when I was little because everyone was so much better than me," Wiggins Jr. said. "But I got better, and now it still seems weird to be doing it."
Dad was a little less modest.
"He holds distance records for 9, 10, 11 and 12 year olds," Wiggins Sr. said of his son. "Last year, he threw it 577 feet in the air. I'm very proud of him, obviously. ... He's definitely, in terms of disc golf, a child prodigy, so to speak. I couldn't be prouder."
Wiggins Jr. shot a 70 and 77 in two days of competition at Winthrop this week and ranked 121 out of 188 opponents as of Thursday afternoon.
In a game very similar to golf, an even temperament is necessary when rough patches arise. And that's one phase of the game Wiggins Jr. is still working on.
"He's 13 years old," Wiggins Sr. said, "so he does very well for his age in those regards, but he's still not as even tempered as an adult."
That temper was on display on one hole in particular, where Wiggins Jr. threw a couple discs out of bounds and had the option of laying up a shot, but instead chose to keep taking stabs at a tougher shot. He ended up sailing six consecutive throws out of bounds, which hurt his round.
Seven-year disc thrower and competitor Philo Brathwait said Wiggins will improve with time.
"It just comes with age," Brathwait said. "Once he matures a little more in the matter of course management he'll be fine. I wish I started at 13."