LPGA Denies 15-Year-Olds Attempt to Join Tour


ATLANTA -- The LPGA turned down a 15-year-old girl who wanted a chance to qualify for a spot on the women's tour in 2006.
Carmen Bandea, who lives with her parents in suburban Duluth, asked outgoing LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw to waive the requirement that a golfer must be 18 to become a tour member.
In a letter, Votaw cited the teenager's lack of tournament experience for denying her request to enter qualifying school this fall.
``The most important responsibility of an LPGA Tour member is the ability to compete at the highest level of women's professional golf, and that includes the ability to earn a living playing golf,'' Votaw wrote. ``Your application does not satisfactorily demonstrate to me that you can compete at the highest level of women's professional golf at this time, and it is primarily for this reason that I must deny your application.''
Undeterred, Bandea said she'll ask Carolyn Bivens, who succeeds Votaw at the end of the year, to give the request another look. In the meantime, the teenager plans to turn pro on the Hooters Tour, a minor league men's circuit which has many events within driving distance of her home.
Bandea was one of three females who attempted to get in the men's U.S. Open this year, but she was eliminated in local qualifying with a 4-over 76. She also went out at the local level trying to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, shooting a 6-over 78.
Last week, Bandea made it through stroke play at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship, but she lost in the first round of match play.
Clearly, Votaw doesn't believe Bandea can compete at the same level as golfers such as 15-year-old Michelle Wie and 17-year-old Morgan Pressel.
Wie was runner-up to Annika Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship and contended at the U.S. Women's Open until the final day. Pressel was tied for the Open lead at the final hole when Birdie Kim rolled in an improbable birdie from the sand to capture the championship.
Two weeks ago, Pressel applied for a waiver to join the LPGA Tour. Votaw ruled that she can enter qualifying school this fall and, if successful, join the tour in 2006 after turning 18.
Wie has yet to apply, content for now with the rule that allows her to play up to six pro tournaments a year using sponsor exemptions.
Bandea's parents, Claudiu and Becky, said it's not fair that a young golfer must play in major tournaments and show the ability to earn a living on tour just to get into qualifying school. That standard, they say, ``requires an extensive playing schedule and traveling throughout the country or abroad.''
``You are sending the wrong message to young golfers and their families,'' the Bandeas wrote in a letter to Votaw. ``We strongly believe that this policy is wrong and unfair to the young golfers who would rather spend more time at home with their families than being on the road for months at a time.''
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