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|Michelle Wie's early burnout can be partially be blamed on those who allowed her early start. (Courtesy photo)|
Tadd Fujikawa and Michelle Wie are fueling the dangerous precedent that the legions of upcoming talented teen golfers today, with dreams of the PGA and LPGA tours, should turn pro the second they believe they can - rather than wait until they should.
It's happened to all of us.
We're at a backyard barbeque, chatting with neighbors, when an unidentified toddler sneaks up with a baseball bat and whacks you in the groin.
You turn the initial wince into a polite laugh; "So cute when they're this age," you wheeze.
But the kid doesn't stop. He whacks you again, this time more accurately and harder than before. Your knees buckle and your face turns blue.
"Persistent little bugger," you whine, not sure how your neighbors would tolerate physical retaliation against a little ankle-biter. You shoo him off once more, but seconds later ...
"Okay! Where's this little bastard's dad!?" you exclaim, grabbing him by the scruff.
It stops being cute pretty fast. And I must say I'm already sick of these little teenaged golf brats turning pro the second they hit puberty.
But if we adults don't lay down the law, they will never learn.
"It's always been a dream," the 5-foot-1-inch 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa recently said between "likes," "ummms" and "you knows" at his recent press conference announcing his turning pro. He's passed up his childhood to spend the next 50 years of his life fighting for paychecks against grown married men every week.
He's leaving behind the carefree sun-soaked beaches and golf courses of Hawaii, no less - not the Cabrini Green projects.
What's the rush, Tadd? Golf isn't women's gymnastics, where an athlete's window of opportunity is one or two Olympics to get on a Wheaties box and earn a prestigious coaching gig in Ukraine.
On the contrary, golfers improve with age. They usually peak in their 30s. Tour purses will be much bigger by then, anyway. Kids who turn pro like there's no tomorrow stand to suffer major burnout before they even reach their maximum potential.
Tadd is fueling the dangerous precedent that the legions of upcoming talented teen golfers should go pro the second they believe they can - rather than wait until they should.
Aside from Michelle Wie's disastrous past 12 months, Ty Tryon is another cautionary tale. He turned pro in 2001 at 16 and has since been bypassed by other young golfers struggling to get by on the Gateway Tour. In 1998, 17-year-old Justin Rose turned pro after a fluke fourth-place finish in that year's British Open. Then he missed 21 cuts in a row and has had an inconsistent pro career up to this point.
There is a difference between realizing your destiny and forcing it.
The NBA saw the writing on the wall a few years back as it watched countless teens pass up on college for a shot at an NBA paycheck. Between the Kobes and Garnetts, countless others failed miserably. Commissioner David Stern finally instituted a special age rule to prevent this.
Now, few golfers are trying to leave poverty behind as some basketball stars may have been trying to do, which makes their impatience all the more absurd.
Playing amateur and college golf worked for Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods - and it's working for USC phenom Jamie Lovemark, who recently won the NCAA Championship and is making PGA Tour cuts as an amateur easily, but he hasn't made the jump yet.
Or look at the pride of Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, who has turned down numerous European Tour invites to focus on his amateur career. It will culminate at the Walker Cup in his home country at Royal County Down - a perfect sendoff before he heads to greener pastures.
Fujikawa won't be there for the U.S. golf side: He'll be trying to make a cut at some second-flight tournament that doesn't even make the papers.
Lovemark and McIlroy know golf is all about the long haul. Look for them to burn up the tours in the coming years, not Fujikawa.
Apparently, Wood's 12 major championships and billion-dollar net worth isn't enough inspiration for some kids to at least give college golf a try. That's why it should be up to the older, powerful and wiser tour officials to keep them in check. The tours need to step in and do something before their future marketable superstars are destroyed.
July 24, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The sun came out over Wales Monday, and Senior Writer Brandon Tucker ditched the final round of Ryder Cup play for 18 holes at nearby Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club. As the Americans rallied and ultimately fell short, Tucker offers his unique perspective on the European victory and the celebration that ensued.
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