Skipping college for the PGA Tour

Will the PGA Tour eventually adopt a minimum age requirement, a la those of the NFL and the NBA?

Chances are, not anytime soon. However, there is a growing number of people in the golf community and industry alike who happen to agree with Hank Haney, golf instructor and swing coach to Tiger Woods, that “if a young person’s final goal is to do everything possible to become a world-class player, playing college golf for four years shouldn’t be part of the program.”

With this in mind, expect to see an influx of younger players into the Tour’s ranks in the near future (including players who attend college for only one or two years and then decide to leave early, like Adam Scott did years ago at UNLV), as well as to the Nationwide and European Tours (both share the unofficial title of “second best” tour in the world). Just this week, in fact, sixteen-year-old Richard Lee, Golfweek’s second-ranked junior, announced his decision to forego college and turn professional. This trend may indeed persist, as “junior” players continue to begin competitive play at earlier ages, while both accelerating their timeframe for becoming the “next Tiger,” and maturing more quickly than previously-thought-possible into confident, viable and polished threats to the Tour’s relatively seasoned veterans. Case in point: Fifteen-year old high school freshman Ryo Ishikawa, who two weeks ago became the youngest winner ever on the Japan Tour (a 20 year old named Seve Ballesteros previously held the honor).

What this means is that golf agents (“player managers” in the business) must begin, if they haven’t already done so, to start tracking prospective professionals when they are just beginning in the junior ranks, well before they even begin to ponder what college they’ll attend. If they even go on to attend college, that is.

–Jason G. Wulterkens

One reply on “Skipping college for the PGA Tour”

Just found this site, it’s great.

Letting young guys play on the Tour doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to me. First off from my limited knowledge of professional golf the life they lead is very different from that of a professional basketball or baseball player. Golfers do travel consistently but they are not necessarily with other young men in a different city every couple of days. It seems to me golfers have an opportunity to do things at their own pace a little easier than most of the other major sports which would help with the transition for these young guys who might barely have their drivers license. There wouldn’t be the same pressure on them on a nightly basis and while the spotlight is shining on them every weekend I would guess they would be able to handle it better because it is an individual sport and they have always had to rely on their own ability.
It seems to me that most of the other young athletes in individual sports like tennis adjust well to the professional game and have succeeded for the most part. All in all it seems like it would be easier for a golfer to turn pro at 18 then most other sports.


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