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Michelle Wie and Tadd Fujikawa embody why LPGA, PGA need age restrictions for turning pro

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Michelle Wie
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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 ...

Whack!

"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.

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. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Justin Rose

    fredbatt wrote on: Aug 29, 2007

    You got it wrong about Justin Rose. He may have started too young and had a horrible go of it early on --- but the last time I looked he was ranked #15 in the world ranking and heading north!

    Reply

  • you have no idea what you are talking about

    annie green wrote on: Aug 14, 2007

    im sorry to say, u have no idea what u r talking about... and by the way, its not them to blame, its the ones who got there hopes up about being in the PGA. thank u and good day.

    Reply

  • Great Story

    Rob Blumberg wrote on: Jul 27, 2007

    I like your story. A lot of what I have read seems to blame Michelle Wie herself for her behavior. I did a lot of dumb things when I was 17. If her dad and her management are going to exploit her this badly, they need to manage what comes out of her mouth. A 17 year old does not have great judgment.
    Growing up I had several friends who could shoot rounds under par. It is a more recent "Tiger Phenomenon" that has caused everyone to rush their kids to stardom when they are not mentally or physically ready. Tiger went to Stamford for a year and learned professionalism with some great US Amateur play. People seem to think he was competing at 16 and 17 years old. He was but at the level he should have.
    Shame on the people around Michelle Wie for letting her embarrass herself on the PGA tour without an LPGA win (or 10). If she is hurt she should rest. If she is not, she needs a break. She is a kid.

    Reply


 
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