Pressel Should Be the Exception to the Rule

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ty Votaw saw the glass as half-full.
 
By allowing Morgan Pressel to go through LPGA Tour qualifying before turning 18, the former commissioner gave her a six-month start on any other underage player who wanted to turn pro.
 
'If I had said no, she would have had to wait until 2007,' Votaw said Tuesday.
 
Herb Krickstein sees the glass as half-empty.
 
If the LPGA Tour felt his granddaughter was mature enough to go through Q-school, where she easily earned her card for 2006, then why isn't that enough for her to be treated like a regular member? Instead, Pressel must wait until she turns 18 on May 23 before her earnings count as official.
 
That puts her behind on the money list, qualifying for the new playoff system, and collecting points toward the Solheim Cup and rookie of the year.
 
'Everything they talk about to be an LPGA member, she has -- except her 18th birthday,' Krickstein said. 'And I don't think she's going to change when she turns 18.'
 
Her immediate future now lies with new commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who coincidentally will be in New York on Wednesday to preside over a one-day forum called, 'Phenoms to Professionals: Successful Transitions.'
 
Pressel's name is sure to come up, although she has company.
 
Michelle Wie signed multimillion endorsement deals a week before she turned 16. Wie, the biggest draw in women's golf, doesn't plan to join the LPGA Tour until she is 18, but she has been playing pro tournaments since she was 12, and has played at least eight times a year against the pros the last three years.
 
Paula Creamer went from high school to LPGA Tour rookie of the year.
 
And then there's Aree Song, who played in the final group of a major at age 13.
 
Votaw made an exception for Song two years ago, allowing her to join at age 17. Song had a great record as an amateur and had already graduated high school. Because the LPGA Tour didn't start until March, she would be 17 for only a few months. It made sense.
 
The decision looked even better when Song nearly won the Kraft Nabisco, finishing one shot behind when Grace Park birdied the last hole. Then, she celebrated her 18th birthday by taking the 54-hole lead in Atlanta. But she fell apart the next day with a 78, and hasn't come close to winning since then.
 
Did that affect Votaw's decision on Pressel?
 
Probably.
 
'Every single case is looked upon as the individual circumstances that pertain to that person, while also comparing them to other decisions that have been made,' Votaw said. 'The only other person I had considered was Aree Song.'
 
A safe guess is that Votaw wanted to make sure that exceptions to the age limit were rare, protecting against a parade of teenagers who might come after Pressel. In other words, keep precedence to a minimum.
 
Krickstein first met with Votaw in June.
 
'I told him Morgan decided not to go to college, and we would like permission to go to Q-school and be a member of the LPGA,' Krickstein said. 'He said he would think about it. I said, 'What if she wins the U.S. Open?' And he laughed. He didn't snicker, but he laughed, and said we'll talk again.'
 
Krickstein paused for effect, then smiled in such a way that everyone knew this wasn't about ability.
 
'She didn't win,' he added.
 
No, but Pressel probably should have won the biggest tournament in women's golf. She was tied for the lead, her ball in the 18th fairway, when she watched Birdie Kim ahead of her hit a mediocre bunker shot that was running hot until the hole got in the way. It fell for birdie, and a most unlikely victory.
 
Pressel went on to win the U.S. Women's Amateur, along with the five biggest events on the junior circuit.
 
But then, talent was never part of this equation.
 
Votaw used Song as a reference, but he could just as easily have considered Jenny Chuasiriporn.
 
Remember her?
 
She was a 20-year-old amateur who holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the 1998 U.S. Women's Open to force a playoff with Se Ri Pak, then lost the next day in 20 holes. Chuasiriporn never got her card, and now is out of the game. She was a one-week wonder, and there is no shortage of those.
 
Pressel has been turning heads since she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at age 12, and every year she seems to get better. She plays a sharp draw, not the safest swing in golf, but has a knack for scoring that is better than the other teenagers. She plays with purpose on every shot, and David Duval sensed something different about her watching her play a few holes at Cherry Hills.
 
'She's the only one who thinks she can win this thing,' he said during the final round of the Women's Open. 'She's walking like, 'Hey, I'm the deal.' You know?'
 
Pressel might be the real deal.
 
If maturity is the only reason to keep her from becoming a full-fledged member, how much will she grow up between her first LPGA event as a pro in March and her 18th birthday in May?
 
The LPGA Tour did her a favor by letting her go through Q-school early. It could do her another one by letting the money count before she turns 18.
 
Pressel kept her opinions to herself after earning her card, saying only that she hoped the LPGA would change its mind and was confident it would do the right thing. She then was asked what Bivens should consider.
 
'Me, myself and my game,' Pressel said, 'and nobody else.'
 
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