Wednesday 21 March 2018

If Lexie's good enough she's old enough something to roar about

Teenage star Alexis Thompson has played a number of events this year on sponsors exemptions
Teenage star Alexis Thompson has played a number of events this year on sponsors exemptions
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

IF they're good enough, they're old enough -- that was the view of the legendary Matt Busby, who revolutionised English soccer with the 'Busby Babes' of the 1950s.

Mind you, the 'Babes' tag gave the mistaken impression that every player in that great United side, which was devastated by the Munich air disaster in 1958, was a fresh-faced kid playing among adults with the swagger and innocence of a 15-year-old.

Not true. In fact the team of that era had a backbone of mature players in their mid-to-late 20s.

However, the essence of the Babes was that Busby had no fear about putting in youngsters who were physically, mentally, and ability-wise able to hold their own among the elite of English and European football.

Hence, Duncan Edwards made his debut at age 16; Dubliner Liam Whelan got into the Reds side before he was 20; survivor Bobby Charlton's first outing in Busby's first team came when he was 19; Kenny Morgans, another Munich survivor, was only 18 and playing in the First Division (now the Premier League).

And in 1963, a young man named George Best was launched on the football world by Busby when he was only 17.

Busby went against the grain in his approach, particularly with the 1950s players, as at that time the norm was to have players mature and only begin dipping their toe into first-team waters when they were aged 20 and older.


However, it was easier for an individual club boss -- and still is -- to decide when, where and how their young players will get out to play with the adult professionals.

In golf, it's a bit different. Rules are rules, and are imposed by the profess-ional Tours.

The restrictions are there to protect youngsters, but 15-year-old American starlet Alexis Thompson is throwing down the gauntlet to the LPGA.

'Lexie', as she is known, is a formidable talent and played against the GB and Ireland Curtis Cup team, which included the similarly impressive Maguire sisters, Lisa and Leona, earlier this year.

Once the Curtis Cup was over, Lexie, who will be 16 in February, turned professional. She's too young under LPGA rules to be a member, but played a number of events on sponsor exemptions and has made more than $336,472 (€254,000) in just over six months. Today she tees it up in the Ladies European Tour finale in Dubai.

Her agent, meanwhile, has apparently filed a petition with the LPGA to allow Lexie play in 12 tournaments next year. Current rules only allow players under 18 to play in six. Obviously a golfer would have to be a pretty special talent to even get that number of opportunities, but the likes of Michelle Wie and Thompson come into that category.

The latter was only 12 in 2007 (and missed the cut) when she became the youngest golfer to qualify for the US Women's Open, and she went on to qualify for the Open in 2008 (again missing the cut) and 2009 when, at the tender age of 14, she played all four rounds and finished tied for 34th.

This year, after turning pro, the young lady again went through US Women's Open qualifying, got through, and went on to finish tied 10th, earning $72,100 (€54,300), which was her first cheque as a professional.

A few more outings and the bank manager was smiling. If she can play a limited season and bring home a huge chunk of money while doing so, it's easy to see why Thompson and her agent would like to see her compete in more tournaments while she fills in the time waiting to turn 18.

This is an interesting test for the Tour. Lexie is a home-grown US girl on a Tour increasingly dominated by Asian players and, being only a youngster herself, would be a huge draw for TV and sponsors.

She is also desperately keen to just get out and play. When you consider that the 2010 LPGA Order of Merit winner Jiyai Shin of South Korea is only 21, it's understandable that Thompson can't wait to get out to take on the big guns on a regular basis.

At the same time, maybe kids need to be protected somewhat from themselves, no matter how good they are in their teenage years.

The Maguire twins are a case in point. They have been playing stunning golf and winning tournaments way out of their age group, but they are not neglecting their education.

Time is very much on their side. A golf career is a long-term undertaking and it would seem prudent to allow youngsters to mature in every sense of the word before teeing it up against the best players week in, week out.

Bramlett gives Tiger something to roar about

TIGER Woods has made Joe Bramlett (Joe who?) famous via Twitter.

Tiger tweeted yesterday, "Congrats to Joe Bramlett for making it through Q School", and followed that up with: "Amazing feat considering he sat out a whole year with wrist injury. Can't wait to play with him next season."

Bramlett is 22 and a graduate of Stanford University, which Tiger also attended. He is also African-American and is the first player of that descent to win his Tour card from Q School in 25 years. He finished tied 16th.

Tiger played two practice rounds in the US Open week last June with Bramlett.

Irish Independent

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