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As the more familiar names in golf continue inch closer to the Senior PGA Tour, a host of amateur all-stars are consistently joining the professional ranks.
 
Last week, Bryce Molder, 22, and Luke Donald, 23, made their pro debuts at the Reno-Tahoe Open. This week, a trio of others will do the same at the Air Canada Championship.
 
Jeff Quinney, James Driscoll and Erik Compton are leaving behind their days of playing purely for fun.
 
Now, theyre playing for profit.
 
All three competed in last weeks U.S. Amateur Championship. Quinney, 22, lost in the quarterfinals; Driscoll, 23, in the third round; and Compton, 21, failed to qualify for match play.
 
Meanwhile, Molder and Donald skipped the Amateur to pursue their professional dreams.
 
Though highly criticized by many, both felt quite comfortable with their decisions. In fact, while Donald missed the cut in Reno, Molder finished in third place and earned $204,000.
 
The professional ranks are saturated with former amateur stars. Some of which burn brightly, many of which fade away.
 
All of the aforementioned greenhorns have impressive resumes. Quinney defeated Driscoll to win the 2000 U.S. Amateur. Compton, who underwent a heart transplant nearly ten years ago, is a second-team All-American from the University of Georgia.
 
Molder is a four-time All-America selection from Georgia Tech. And Donald is a former NCAA champion at Northwestern.
 
Still, amateur aptitude doesnt guarantee professional success.
 
For every David Gossett ' the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion who won last months John Deere Classic, there are hundreds of Hank Kuehnes ' the 1998 U.S. Amateur champion who is treading water on the mini tours.
 
Even Gossett can attest to the struggles in evolving into a professional player. Before his maiden triumph, the 22-year-old missed nine of his first ten cuts on tour.
 
Fellow 22-year-old Charles Howell III can relate. This year, the 2000 NCAA champion has earned over $1 million; though, hes had to do so as a special temporary member of the PGA Tour.
 
But, the fact is, Gossett and Howell have had success. And thats all a potential pro sees.
 
When a collegiate leaves early to play with the big boys, it hardly registers anymore; players have been doing so for decades.
 
But now, with a lucrative lure, players are forgoing college, altogether.Kevin Na and Ty Tryon, a pair of teenagers, have announced their intentions to turn pro ' prior to finishing high school.
 
Na, a 17-year-old Korean living in California, is entering his senior year in high school. Tryon, a 17-year-old in Orlando, Fla., has just started his junior year.
 
Both have said they will complete their secondary education while pursuing a professional career.
 
Tryon made the cut in each of the two tour events he has played in 2001 - the Honda Classic and the B.C. Open. Na missed the cut in the Buick Invitational.
 
When a player turns professional, the PGA Tour grants him seven sponsors exemptions in order to try and earn his card for the following season.
 
Compton, Quinney and Driscoll begin their treks this week at the Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey, BC.
 
There is, however, a great difference between Quinney and Driscoll, and Compton.
 
Compton still has two years of eligibilty left in college. Quinney and Driscoll have already graduated.
 
Experience, no matter how miniscule, is maginfied on the PGA Tour. The more you have, the more it helps.
 
Think about the recent number of players who have won less than a year after leaving college - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Scott Hoch and Gossett come to mind.
 
That's about it.
 
And think about the quality of player just mentioned. Four of the five will represent the United States in the upcoming Ryder Cup.
 
The road from amateur to professional is, at best, filled with stones. But in the rush to fame in fortune, there is apparently no time like the present.