Teen turns pro, questions LPGA age policy

BOCA RATON, Florida: U.S. Open runner-up Morgan Pressel turned pro on Thursday, two weeks before the American goes through the final stage of Q-school and six months before she's old enough to join the U.S. LPGA Tour. 

Pressel, however, has not given up hope that she can be an LPGA member before her 18th birthday. 

If she gets her card through qualifying school on Dec. 1-5 in Daytona Beach, her grandfather said they would ask the LPGA to reconsider its policy that players cannot join the tour until they are 18. 

"If she doesn't get through Q-school, it's irrelevant,'' Herb Krickstein said at St. Andrews Country Club, where Pressel announced she had signed with IMG.  

"If she gets through Q-school, we might revisit the issue and consider other options.'' 

Asked to elaborate on other options, Krickstein smiled and said, "I don't know.'' 

Pressel, who turns 18 on May 23, in June petitioned the LPGA Tour to waive its minimum age policy. A week later, she finished second in the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills when Birdie Kim holed an improbable bunker shot on the 18th hole. 

Pressel won the U.S. Women's Amateur two months later, and became the first player to sweep the five biggest events on the American Junior Golf Association circuit. 

The LPGA Tour denied her request, but allowed her to go through Q-school instead of making her wait one year. She can play up to six tournaments on sponsors' exemptions until she can join May 23, although whatever money she earns will not count toward the money list. 

LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens was in meetings on Thursday and not available for comment, although her staff said she was unlikely to make an exception. 

Pressel's petition was denied by then-commissioner Ty Votaw, and supported by Bivens, who took over in September. 

Bivens will be hosting a forum on Dec. 7 in New York called "Phenoms to Professionals.'' David Stern of the NBA and Gary Bettman of the NHL will join a dozen other commissioners to talk about teenagers turning pro. 

Pressel was asked what she would say if she had a voice on the panel. 

"They should consider that if somebody is ready to play, ready to compete, then there should be no problem with it. It shouldn't be an issue,'' Pressel said.  

"Let the families decide how they want the careers to progress.'' 

Krickstein has some experience with prodigies. His son, Aaron Krickstein, was the youngest player at age 16 to win on the ATP Tour, and at 17 became the youngest player to be ranked in the top 10. 

"I don't know if you can compare young female tennis players or young female golfers who mature very fast ... to 15-year-olds that might want to play in the NBA,'' Krickstein said. 

"I don't think they're comparing apples to apples.  

"It's an individual sport. And we're talking about women. They mature faster than boys.'' 

Pressel is the second female American golfer in as many years to skip university. Paula Creamer was 18 when she turned pro last year. 

Having finished her high school requirements early, she won Q-school by five shots, then won the LPGA rookie of the year award this year after winning twice and finishing second on the money list. 

Pressel and Creamer competed often in junior golf, which gives Pressel extra confidence."I knew she was going to play well,'' Pressel said. 

"Obviously, seeing her play well and having competed with her, I knew I'd be able to ... I don't want to say do the same thing, but I knew I'd be able to go out and do well.'' 

The first step was turning pro, a low-key affair compared with Michelle Wie's splashy announcement in Honolulu last month.  

Pressel has not signed an equipment deal or any other endorsements, saying they were would be an announcement within a couple of weeks. 

She had her agent, Sherry Whay of IMG, to her left and her grandfather to her right, but Pressel did most of the talking while moderating the press conference, and she handled it smoothly. 

"My goal is to win Q-school,'' she said. 

"Then, my goal is to win as many times as I can and finish as high on the money list. I know it's going to be hard.'' - AP 

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