MINI / Feature

Best In Class

Practice, drive and unparalleled aptitude push four superstar kids to the top of their games.

BY September 20, 2022
Main Cover Champ Jaxon
12-year-old Champ Jaxon plays on the national stage with big-name acts, like The Marshall Tucker Band (Photo by Anna Nguyen / Styled by Anna Ruiz)

Cameron Middleton

In Instagram videos, Cameron Middleton, a 7-year-old golfer from Bonita Springs, hits a golf ball through a slinky, down a staircase into a cup, knocking Mentos into a Coke bottle causing a soda eruption. A hole-in-one he sunk at Stoneybrook Golf Club in Estero was featured on Good Morning America in October 2020. “My favorite trick is the spinning duct tape,” Cameron says. “We hung duct tape, and I chipped it through as it was spinning.”

Cameron began golfing at 3, when his family lived in Miami. He picked up a club he found in the house and started smashing the ball. (“I’m that parent that lets him hit the ball in the house,” his mom, Gina, muses.) The family couldn’t find kid-friendly courses locally, so Cameron practiced trick strokes at a nearby DICK’S Sporting Goods. The next year, the family moved to Florida’s west coast, and he started playing on fairways.

Cameron Middleton
Golfer Cameron Middleton (Photo by Anna Nguyen / Styled by Anna Ruiz)

Though he loves chipping balls over his mom’s head or into moving, remote-controlled cars, Cameron is more than a trickster. After homeschooling, he practices shots in the house or plays a round at Stoneybrook. He’s played in 40 tournaments, including the national Junior Tour Powered by Under Armour. He’s placed first or second in most competitions, often against older, stronger children.

Recently, he met his hero, pro golfer Rickie Fowler, while watching a tournament at St. Andrews Links in Scotland. Cameron would like to follow in his footsteps. “I want to be on the PGA Tour,” he says, adding that he’s got his sights set on The Masters Tournament. “I want to win that green jacket. I would probably hang it on my wall.” —Andrea Stetson


Giorgio Tomasi

Seven-year-old Giorgio Tomasi leaps on his skimboard, twists 360 degrees in the air and lands back on the board as he surfs to shore. The Naples skimmer was undefeated last year, winning the 2021 Mini Division Skim USA tour championship. He’s been unbeatable so far this year, too. “I want to be the best skimboarder in the world,” he says.

Giorgio first hopped on a board two years ago. An old wooden skimboard his brother used had become the roof of a play fort. He often asked about the board, so his parents eventually bought him one from Old Naples Surf Shop. “It is a part of him. He found his passion so young,” his mom, Lisa, says.

Though Giorgio had an innate skill, getting to a championship level took practice. “I go to the beach with dad and do 100 rides every day,” Giorgio says. “Yesterday it was 102.”

Giorgio Tomasi
Skimboarder Giorgio Tomasi (Photo by Anna Nguyen / Styled by Anna Ruiz)

A month after he discovered the sport, he entered his first competition. “He got hooked,” his dad, Mark, says. “I ask pros, ‘Were you this good at 7?’ They all say no.” Giorgio takes private lessons and classes, but most of his training involves experimenting with self-taught skills until he perfects them.

He’s secured sponsorships from Old Naples Surf Shop and Zap Skimboards, a top brand and the maker of Giorgio’s custom lime ride. He hopes by 12, he’ll be eligible to go semi-pro—the first step in becoming the world champ. “My favorite thing is wrapping waves. Your skimboard hits the wave, and you ride it back to the shore,” he says, accepting the ride to the top isn’t always smooth. “Even if he falls, it’s still fun,” Mark says. —Andrea Stetson


Champ Jaxon

Twelve-year-old Champ Jaxon has done more than most musicians many times his age. The Champ Jaxon Band has played more than 100 gigs in six states, including shows on Nashville’s Music Row. However, the pint-sized guitarist, who often performs barefoot, says he’s not a prodigy. “I’ve never liked the word because it makes it sound like it’s just talent,” the Punta Gorda seventh grader says. “That’s completely not true. I don’t think anybody liked the music I played when I first started. I played noise, not music.” 

His blues-rocker career began after his guitarist father, Nate, took 3-year-old Champ to the Wanee Festival. Inspired, he began playing air guitar, graduated to the ukulele and got a guitar when he was 6. He first took lessons from his father, then later at local studios to advance his guitar, voice and songwriting skills. “I just kept practicing and learned more techniques,” he says. “It took a lot of time to get where I am.”

Champ Jaxon
Musician Champ Jaxon of The Champ Jaxon Band (Photo by Anna Nguyen / Styled by Anna Ruiz)

Last year, he entered The Marshall Tucker Band’s music contest for kids. The band shared his video, and two months later, he played lead guitar at their concerts. In October, he was the regional winner of The International Blues Challenge; then he released a single, followed by his debut album, which includes four songs he wrote about Florida. Champ plays nine guitars, including one gifted to him by Brad Paisley after they jammed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. When he’s not strumming, he enjoys building LEGO Star Wars ships and going to Comic-Con. As for the guitar, he says, “This is my path in life.” —Aisling Swift   


Sarah Savage

While most teenagers are getting ready for high school dances, 15-year-old Sarah Savage is pursuing her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. “Being on stage is the most amazing feeling in the world. It is something I know I am meant to do,” she says.

Her parents, Stephanie and Tim, enrolled Sarah in her first dance class when she was 3. “Probably because they loved to see their little girl twirling around in tutus on her tiptoes,” Sarah says. Five years later, she performed with the Miami City Ballet at Artis—Naples.

sarah savage
Ballerina Sarah Savage (Photo by Anna Nguyen / Styled by Anna Ruiz)

She’s traveled the country attending prestigious programs from the American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Chautauqua Institution and The School of American Ballet. She has competed nationally through the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest international nonprofit dance competition, which awarded her a scholarship to attend an intensive with the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco this past summer.

On weekdays—and sometimes on Saturdays—a family friend drives Sarah from Naples to Pompano Beach and back to The Art of Classical Ballet. “It is really far, but the training is incredible. My teachers, Magaly Suarez and Ibis Montoto, have changed me as a dancer and helped me realize even more how much I love ballet,” she says. Sarah focuses on her homeschool studies on evenings and weekends. Her goal is to get accepted to a ballet boarding school, where she can train until she turns 18. Afterward, she’ll start auditioning to join a dance company. “Dance is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” she says. —Alyssa Morlacci

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