Young, capable and highly skilled people described as “phenoms” appear from time to time in every walk of life. They might be computer wizards, chess players, chefs, artists, musicians or athletes.
Nobody knows why youthful minds and/or bodies can perform feats at levels well beyond others who have dedicated their lives to developing their natural gifts, but they can.
Some consider such gifted people as ready to embark on career journeys to take advantage of their talents at any age, while others feel the need to restrain them until certain ages are attained.
The motivation for the restraint argument is that a person does not develop all life skills at an equal pace and therefore a 12-year-old “phenom” hockey player might have the skills to play in the NHL, but not the physical size/strength.
Furthermore, they and the people around them might not have the business acumen to determine whether or not they are entering a contract that offers adequate considerations and remuneration. The statement presented is usually accompanied by “let them be kids first and stars later”.
Every person is different, as is every case and every activity. There is a very large gap between a highly-skilled, undersized 16-year-old quarterback who wants to play in the NFL and a six-year-old who can play Beethoven backwards and forwards with either hand.
There is also a very large gap between a golfing “phenom” playing professional golf and a 15-year-old signing a $10-million contract to play in the NBA.
In one sense, “let them be kids’ is a valid position, but on the other hand, if they can compete at a level deserving of millions, let them earn it while they can.
Conceivably, a young talent might be able to help his/her family out of financial woes. A 15-year-old might get injured at age 18 and never again command the benefits.
Nobody knows the future.
Currently, Canada has a golfing “phenom” in Brooke Henderson. At age 15, she won the Canadian Amateur Championship followed the next year by a runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Amateur.
She has won countless other high profile amateur events and even a couple of professional tournaments as well but when she petitioned the LPGA Tour for membership, she was denied because of the age limit of 18 years.
Brooke is only 17, but will turn 18 next month.
I don’t know the content of her letters requesting a special exemption, but I’m sure they quoted instances whereby Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson won their cases. However, it is important to point out that both had won on the LPGA Tour when they stated their cases.
Henderson is a fantastic player who will undoubtedly win many times. She has not won on the LPGA Tour yet, offering Commissioner Michael Whan and his committee the necessary support for their position.
Henderson has turned professional and is playing on various tours and winning copious amounts of money some of which will end in a total significant enough to equal or better the No.40 spot on the tour money list.
That standing would guarantee her LPGA membership, thus avoiding Q-school. A win on tour would likely have the same outcome.
In my opinion, the rules are very clear and very fair, but I do find it strange that she is even allowed to play any professional event before the age of 18 for prize money.
What is the difference between playing for money through sponsor invitations and being allowed to join the LPGA as a member? Why can she enter Symetra events as a professional before she is 18 if the rule is in place to protect her childhood?
However, as in other businesses, I think she has to pay her dues and in doing so, she will develop her life skills and playing skills to levels that will benefit her for a long time.
If you will recall, Michelle Wie came to the LPGA Tour very highly rated, but came in through qualifying school. Even Tiger Woods stated she had not won at every level on her journey and that missing component would eventually hurt her. I think he was right.
Wie has been good, but not nearly to the level of what was expected of her. The forest is full of names with exceptional talent that eventually discovered they couldn’t compete at the highest level over a prolonged period.
Eighteen is generally considered a coming of age in society and one would think someone who has reached that age could handle the pressures of playing LPGA Tour events including all the travel, fame and fortune, but maybe not. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Brooke Henderson looks like the real deal, but what’s the hurry? She turns 18 in a month, but let’s keep expectations in check and just enjoy the ride. Let’s let her develop and enjoy a smooth transition into what looks like a promising career.