He didn't even have to play well in the last round to win and now Aaron Baddeley can call himself a back-to-back Australian Open champion. I wouldn't go so far as to say this year's field was 5th major material, but Robert Allenby, Greg Norman, Stuart Appleby, Mark O'Meara and a couple of other notable names played down under and none of them were nearly far enough under to steal the Australian Open trophy away from a teenager! Have we come to expect this from today's youth?
Tiger has set a precedent that is sure to pump out superhuman talent for the next 100 years in our sport. Nowadays, it seems a college education is becoming secondary to pursuing a career in professional golf because kids are getting their masters degrees in golf before they're 13! I think Australian PGA champ Greg Turner said it best, in his own way of course. He told an Australian reporter after round three of the Open that when he was Baddeley's age, the only thing guys were worried about was 'chasing tail and getting drunk. kids these days are way ahead of the ballgame because they're working out, working with sports psychologists, nutritionists and top-notch swing coaches.' Less than eloquently said, but succinct nonetheless. As a result of these early investments, youngsters are seeing returns at a much earlier age.
Case in point: at 13 years old, Aree Wongluekiet played her way into the final group on Sunday at the LPGA's Nabisco Championship this summer. a major for crying out loud! How does that make Dottie Pepper feel walking along beside her? It has to be sobering. The Wongluekiet twins passed on the typical high school experience to attend the Bradenton Golf Academy. They've been Leadbetter students for years and they don't even have driver's licenses yet. When you ask them what they do for fun, they'll tell you they play video games, read a book from time to time or go to the movies. All of these activities are of course nocturnal, because they're out practicing all day. When I asked Aree and Naree (her twin sister who was low amateur at the U.S. Open this summer) if they were hoping to attend college, they simply replied, 'We'll see.'
There are a few promising tour stars that have chosen to give college a good old 'college try.' Christo Greyling accepted a ride to Georgia. Chan Song Wongluekiet (the older brother of the twins) is headed to Georgia Tech next year, but don't get too excited if you're an advocate of getting a degree. The chances of these kids actually sticking it out are getting slimmer each year. Charles Howell III, Beth Bauer and Paul Casey all took off prematurely this season. A 17 year old by the name of Catherine Cartwright (reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links Champ) has decided to take the Cristie Kerr/Michelle McGann route and skip college completely.
Perhaps for the men, this decision is a little more lucrative. The purses on the PGA Tour are almost five times higher than that of the LPGA. But, if these young women can perform at the highest level, they'll have no problem bringing home a paycheck. We wish them all the best of luck as they head off into the land of 'no guarantee.'
I've got to hand it to today's youth. They are entertaining and impressive and they certainly know what they want. If a child knew by the age of 8 that they wanted to be a doctor, perhaps medicine would be a lot more advanced than it is right now. I've got two words for you- internet age- youth is powerful. It's good to see that the game of golf is not as hard as it's seemed all these years. Or, I should say, the kids are definitely making it look easier.