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Volume 65 Number 4

Taking a road less traveled into professional sports

by Mary Dawson - 2015-02-19

Most 18-year-olds are preoccupied with playing for their high school teams, acting in a high school play, getting A’s in classes, or just finding dates to school dances. There are some teenagers out there, however, whose minds are preoccupied with competing with athletes twice their age and getting drafted by a professional team.

This past weekend, an 18-year-old girl, Su Oh, won the Australian Masters LPGA tournament. This was only her second professional start. Su Oh beat out veterans such as 32-year-old Katherine Kirk and 33-year- old Suzann Pettersen. What’s even cooler than an 18-year-old winning the Australian Masters is that she was not even the only teenager competing. Other teens in the event included 18-year-old Charley Hull, who tied for second, and 17-year-old Lydia Ko. While some teenagers may be dreaming of becoming first in their high school class, Ko dreamed and achieved the goal of becoming first in the world. Yes, you read that correctly: 17-year-old Ko is currently the No. 1 women’s golf professional in the world right now.

Have you heard of Aaron Ekblad? No? Well, you should have. He’s 19 years old, currently plays for the Florida Panthers, and ranks first in the NHL in scoring among rookie defensemen. Ekblad grew up in Belle River, Ontario, Canada. He was granted “exceptional player status,” which allowed him to play in the Ontario Hockey League a year earlier than normal. The Panthers used their No. 1 overall pick to select Ekblad in the 2014 NHL Draft when Ekblad was only 18.

Professional hockey and golf are two sports where it is not rare for young athletes to have opportunities to compete at the highest level. In the NHL, the rule is that any player who will be 18 on or before Sept. 15, and not older than 20 before Dec. 31 of the draft year, are eligible for selection for that year’s draft. For other sports, the eligibility age is a little older. For example, you have to be out of high school for at least three years before you can enter the NFL Draft. This rule makes pretty decent sense, as it’s hard enough for junior and senior college players to make the transition from college to the NFL.

To be eligible to play in the NBA, you have to be 19 during the calendar year of the draft. There is much controversy surrounding this rule. Some people find it too young, others don’t think it’s young enough. The LPGA Tour has an age requirement of 18, but it waived that requirement to allow Ko to enter the LPGA at 16.

In the past, players under 18 have successfully competed in the LPGA and PGA, but because of their age, they were still not considered official members of the tours. Even though they couldn’t be considered official members of the LPGA or PGA, these young players still got the chance to prove themselves and play at a higher level.

It’s an interesting concept: Let the talent triumph their age. Maybe other sports will--and maybe they should--try this model out.



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Article Keywords:

professional, high, school, play, age, lpga, even, ekblad, player, year, draft, young

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