In 2001, when Ty Tryon and Kevin Na both turned professional at age 17, the PGA Tour Policy Board established the minimum age for full membership on Tour to be 18.
Given Si Woo Kim’s recent Q-School performance, however, and the impending modifications to the Q-School format and the PGA Tour qualification process, it’s the right time to revisit the age restriction on Tour, both to nip a significant issue in the bud and to ensure the best possible tour(s), going forward.
Rather than addressing future situations on a case-by-case basis, it’s imperative that the Tour prepares to deal with the coming tidal wave of teenage talent now. The PGA Tour must either:
1. Allow full membership to those who qualify, or
2. Not allow such individuals to fork over the many thousands of dollars to participate in Q-School
Anything else is contradictory, ludicrous and irresponsible.
As CBS’s Shane Bacon said, Kim “won't be able to use his earned PGA Tour card until he turns 18 on June 28. That will be more than 75 percent of the way through the PGA Tour season, and that's just ridiculous.” The right move in Kim’s particular case is for the PGA Tour to grant the 17-year-old South Korean an exemption similar to what the LPGA Tour did for Lexi Thompson, and thus, grant him the full membership he has rightfully and gruelingly earned.
The Web.com Tour is now even more formally a minor league of the PGA Tour, since all future Q-School graduates will be filtered into that tour, rather than the major leagues, so to speak.
It’s important that the Web.com Tour be as dynamic as possible. A significant element of a compelling tour is engaging storylines. A card-carrying, 17-year-old phenomenon is a tremendously compelling narrative. Additionally, such a player on the Web.com Tour has a better chance of quality play, and thus, increased visibility.
It’s essential for young, entertaining players to be competing on the Web.com Tour. Indeed, players like Kim are significantly more important to the Web.com Tour than the star-studded PGA Tour from a marketing and promotional standpoint.
Given the present climate of international professional golf, in which a 14-year-old wins the Asia-Pacific Amateur to gain entry to the Masters and junior golf instruction and participation are at an all-time high, the likelihood of more Si Woo Kims (that is, players under 18 able to make it through Q-School) is great.
There are arguments on both sides about the efficacy of turning pro and forsaking college—and collegiate golf. However, the overarching fact is that a player, especially one who is able to make it through the rigors of Q-School, should have the opportunity to play on the professional tour.