June 30, 2007

12-year-old in U.S. Women's Open golf tournament

Alexis Thompson, the 12-year-old who became the youngest girl ever to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, shot a respectable 76 in Thursday's opening round. She wasn't as good on Friday and will probably not make the cut (qualify for the last two rounds by being in the better half of the entrants) when the second round of the rain-delayed tournament finishes on Saturday. But it's still a pretty amazing showing for somebody who just finished 6th grade (home-schooled).

On the other hand, prodigies are hardly unknown in women's golf. Morgan Pressel qualified as a (somewhat older) 12-year-old in 2001's Women's Open.

John Paul Newport, the WSJ's golf columnist, points out:

Of the 156 competitors in Southern Pines, N.C., 24 are teenagers, and nearly a third are younger than 22. That compares to only five players under 22 in last month's men's U.S. Open. ...

You can call it the Tiger Woods effect for girls, but the difference is that girls tend to mature physically sooner than boys. Many, by their early or mid teens, have attained their full adult stature and close to their full adult strength. They are ready for prime time earlier.

Michelle Wie was arguably better than Tiger at age 14 and 15 -- she three times came within a stroke of making the cut in men's PGA tournaments, which is better than Tiger did at the same age even though he was already recognized as the greatest male prodigy since Bobby Jones -- but she's struggling at age 17. When the estrogen is fully flowing, athleticism often plateaus.

The elite players who make it into events like the U.S. Open often come from blue-chip athletic backgrounds. Both of Morgan Pressel's parents, for instance, were top college athletes and her uncle, Aaron Krickstein, was once the sixth-ranked tennis player in the world. Among the top players in girls amateur golf these days are two of tennis great Ivan Lendl's daughters.

Ms. Thompson, whose oldest brother, Nicholas, ranks second on the Nationwide Tour money list, is home schooled, along with her middle brother, so they can travel as needed to tournaments around the country and practice when they are home in Coral Gables, Fla., on the golf course outside their back door.

There just aren't that many teenage girls who care much about golf, so athletic families with country club memberships have a good shot at winning a full scholarship for their daughters on a college golf team (due to Title IX) if they can get their daughters to concentrate on the game.

But non-elite girls are also showing more interest in golf these days. In a generally stagnant golf market, the only category that has shown any significant growth in the last few years is under-17 females. A magazine called Golfer Girl has just debuted, with features about top young players and golf fashion. The competitive scene for girls in places like Southern California and Florida rivals that for boys.

I've noticed this trend at the local driving range -- there are more pretty girls than at the beginning of the decade.

In SoCal, Asians dominate high school girls golf much more than high school boys' golf. At the 2007 California high school boys' state tournament at Poppy Hills on the Monterey Peninsula, less than 10% of the qualifiers had Asian surnames versus about 30% at the girl's tournament.

On the women's LPGA tour in 2007, 20 of the top 50 moneywinners have Asian names, including 5 Kims and 4 Lees, as opposed to 4 of the top 50 on the PGA men's tour.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


The Constructivist said...

So you don't think In-Bee Park was joking in the interview with Rhonda Glenn on Friday, I take it?

Anonymous said...

i don't think you can learn much from women's sports. i think we already know all there is to pick up from them.

1) women mature faster than men.

2) at the highest level of competition, the worst man is a lot better than the best woman.

3) sexual dimorphism renders women's sports more competitive, internationally.

i'll also give my standard disclaimer about golf. it's not very competitive, few teenagers play it seriously, and golf coverage is far out of proportion to the level of play in the sport. when men get too old to play real sports, they turn to golf, and suddenly a minor sport becomes attractive television material to middle aged guys with lots of disposable income.

Anonymous said...

Women's sports should be more correctly called girl's sports. What's funny is how a lot of these top players start to fizzle at the age of 20, and then take retirement by the age of 25 or so.

Maybe that's just amusing to me, because I'm in medical school and won't even start my career until 26.

Anonymous said...

If it involves absolute tedium, an Asian will find it appealing. Guess that explains Tai Chi.

Anonymous said...

I deal in vintage hi-fi equipment and the anality and obsessive-compulsive behavior of rich oriental collectors has to be seen to be believed. The most in-demand products are the old Western Electric movie theater amplifiers.(Ironically, most of these can't be called 'high fidelity", because their electrical performance is terrible.) Most of them which were not destroyed in the 50s are now in Asia, because they will pay immense sums for them, and for the tubes, transformers and other parts from Western Electric.

As these "whales" get more and more wealthy due to our economic stupidity, we will, I think, see more and more bizarre manifestations of this impacting us in non-trivial ways.

Another question I have about these girls, which is not something one asks in polite company but which would be a necessary point of data, is a trend line of when they get their first menstrual period. I would wager some interesting trends could be mapped from that.

Anonymous said...

The reason Tiger Woods it the greatest golfer alive is that he is great at both the long and short game. Relativly speaking women / girls are only good at the short game.

The women / girls play on shorter courses then the men. The problem here is that a challenging course will place obsticles at the approximate range where an average player would expect to be. This gives a huge advantage to the golfers that can drive past the obsticles thereby getting an easier approach shot.

It was not a fluke that it was Monika Sorrenstam that tried to play against the boys. She was older and had more upper body strength than any of the tweens on the LPGA. Furthermore, she picked a tournament that was on a relitivly short course thereby negating some of the mens advantages.

In effect she used the LPGA as a farm team or as the minor leauges. By keeping the LPGA off limits to men it is in effect a feeder organization that discriminates in favor of women.

I had thought that the bruhaha over Agusta being male only was somewhat fitting. Most of the same harpes that were bitterly complaining about that were clucking about Monika was going to kick the men's asses. Not.

Anonymous said...

Annika Sorenstam

Anonymous said...

OK...I think the ridiculous "push" for womens sports comes from a lesbian "elite" (In Universities,media,government...the so-called "womens" establishment is dominated by lesbians and lesbian values,Title IX and the sports quota system as examples.) Lesbians are not women,IMHO. They should be defined as a "subsex" of men,given their male-like characteristics. They hate men and feel extremely competitive with men. They seem to be obsessed with womens sports,as if playing sports will "man-up" girls,so they will take the place of men and get the pretty women? Its nuts. Who cares about the WNBA? NO ONE,at least no normal hooman being. Michelle Wie is interesting because of the idiotic Great White Hope aura that has been placed upon her by the lesbian sports nuts. She COULD be the ONE--wish it was a white girl,of course,but we'll take a Korean--the CHOSEN(Chosin?)ONE who will beat the boys! Since competing with men can be incredibly rewarding,$$$ wise,there will always be dads and coaches pushing girls hard. They will of course fail and prob burn out,like Wie might be doing now. As for women maturing earlier,when they "mature" they get breasts,and dont boobs,as that TV guy once opined,get in the way of the swing??

Anonymous said...

at the highest level of competition, the worst man is a lot better than the best woman

While that's true, it does not necessarily mean that women's sports aren't interesting to watch. Figure it this way, college football can be fun to watch even though most teams aren't as good as NFL teams. Welterweight boxers can be just as good to watch as heavyweights. What makes a sporting event fun to watch is not the absolute level of competition, but the relative levels of competition on display.

sexual dimorphism renders women's sports more competitive, internationally

Doesn't that term refer to the size differences between the genders? If so, I don't quite see what effect that would have on the competitiveness of women's sports.

Anonymous said...

As for women maturing earlier,when they "mature" they get breasts,and dont boobs,as that TV guy once opined,get in the way of the swing??

Whatever happened to that one gal who played a tournament DRESSED AS MARILYN? She seemed to have a pair. What happened to her?