Fujikawa, Wie prove turning pro is wasted on the youth
Everything is faster now: cars, athletes, communication, the pace of change.
Perhaps because of that it has become easier -- if not a commonplace mistake -- to confuse a great performance with greatness, to mistake an isolated instance of achievement for sustained brilliance. We want everything yesterday. You'd think by now we would have learned that brewed coffee is so much tastier than the instant variety. Some things are just worth waiting for. What a pity the world did not wait for Michelle Wie. And what a pity Tadd Fujikawa followed her same questionable path.While it is still far too early to tell -- she is, after all, only 18 -- the unfolding of events may well prove that the worst thing that happened to Wie was missing the cut in the Sony Open by only 1 stroke in 2004 at the age of 14. It gave the mistaken impression that she was close to being able to compete with the men. What people failed to grasp was that magic happened that week in Hawaii. And magic should never be confused with greatness. The latter is sustainable, repeatable. The former is much more whimsical, unpredictable. Magic shows up, greatness can be summoned up.
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The trend to push young talent onto center stage before it is truly ready to play at that level is nothing new, but it is escalating. Back in 1973, the Texas Rangers took David Clyde from high school with the first pick in the draft and put him on the mound in a major league baseball game two months and five days past his 18th birthday. On Aug. 7, 1979 -- at the age of 24 -- Clyde made his last appearance in a major league game. Who knows what might have been if Clyde had been given the time to develop and to mature physically and emotionally?The only real argument for Fujikawa turning pro when he did, in my mind at least, would be if he truly felt he would never make it as a touring pro, so he might as well cash in when he could. Tadd is only 5 feet, 1 inch tall, and it is unlikely a growth spurt is lurking. In an era during which the players are bigger and stronger, is he ever going to be able to run with the big boys? Perhaps he did the right thing. Fujikawa comes from humble economic roots and one of his justifications for turning pro when he did was that he didn't have enough money to fund an active amateur career on the costly junior circuit, especially since he lives in Hawaii and almost all the events are on the mainland -- a pricey plane ticket away. But if he truly believed in his heart of hearts that he can make it on the PGA Tour he made a mistake. He needed to gain experience on a less demanding stage. Tiger Woods was closer to 21 years old than 20 when he turned pro in 1996 and when I asked his father if he had been tempted to run his son out there earlier, Earl responded with some very wise words. "I wasn't going to put him out there until I was sure he could play with the big boys," Earl told me. "More importantly, I wasn't going to put him out there until I was sure that he was sure he could play with the big boys. I was never going to do anything that would hurt his confidence." Confidence is such an important part of golf. We've all hit great shots, but great players have are confident they can produce those shots at will. And confidence is a fragile commodity. Ask Tryon, or Wie, or Fujikawa. They opted for instant coffee over fresh brewed -- and, so far, all that has resulted is a bitter aftertaste. Ron Sirak is the executive editor of Golf World magazine and author of the best-selling book "Every Shot Must Have a Purpose: How GOLF54 Can Make you a Better Player" and the recently released "The Game Before the Game: The Perfect 30-Minute Practice."
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