Of course I'm referring to the PGA Tour's youngest and newest kid on the block, Ty Tryon. In 2002, he won't be parking cars at the shopping mall for extra change. He will be driving courtesy cars to appointments with investment counselors, advising him as to where to put the millions of dollars he is sure to win in the coming years.
The question of the day is, Just because a teenager has the talent to compete on the tour, should he?
I could think of several names off the top of my head who had enough game to compete on tour as a teenager - Nicklaus, Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Scott Verplank, Tiger Woods ' they all come to mind. But they all chose to go to college instead and their games steadily improved during those years. And I know all those guys look back at the social interaction in collegiate competition as being great experiences in their lives.
We see so many young athletes bypass college for game day experience in other sports like hockey, tennis and basketball. It scares me that the tour could end up some day like the NBA, with several dysfunctional millionaires who seem clueless once they leave the arena. But at least in the NBA, the players have teammates and coaches to provide guidance.
On the tour, a player is totally on his own, and it takes a certain level of maturity and responsibility to exist out here. I've always felt the time spent on the course playing golf is the easiest part of our lives. It's getting from the last green to the first tee the next day that can be a challenge if you're not ready for it.
I'm not saying that Ty should fold up his club glove and grind for his SATs. You have to give him his due. What he is doing by becoming the first high school golfer to qualify for his tour card takes the kind of courage and resolve needed to have a successful career as a player. Ty seems to be a very mature young man with a ton of ability and he certainly could become a marquee talent who could make the tour a better showcase than it already is.
I just hope he is the exception rather than the rule, and the great junior players will look at college as the next logical step toward the dream of a professional career. The PGA Tour is as much about the correct choices off the golf course as it is on it.
Perhaps it's just the father in me that fears for these young men and the overwhelming pressure they're about to face. Because it not only plays tricks with your confidence, it can make you old quick. Or maybe it's the old man in me that doesn't want to see a roll call of youngsters coming out who can also smoke it by me 30 yards. They're already building Wal-Marts between my tee ball and Charles Howell's.
At least that's my take. What's yours?