With his victory at the ASEAN PGA Tour's Singhua Hin Open, 14-year-old Phachara Khongwatmai ousted Lydia Ko as the youngest golfer to ever win a professional event. Khongwatmai, a native of Thailand, also became the only amateur to win an ASEAN PGA Tour event after rounds of 66-67-71-67 for a 13-under 271 total and a four-shot victory.
Born May 3, 1999, Khongwatmai is about seven months younger than Lydia Ko when she won the Ladies European Tour's New South Wales Open in January 2012 at age 14. Prior to Ko's win, Ryo Ishikawa held the record after winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in May 2007 at 15 years and 8 months.
The recent wave of youth success across the globe begs the questions: "How young is too young?" and, "When is the right time to turn pro?"
Within the last year, we've seen 12-year-old Latanna Stone compete in the U.S. Women's Amateur, 15-year-old Ko win both the U.S. Women's Amateur and the LPGA's CN Canadian Women's Open in the same month, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan make the cut at the Masters, and 19-year-old Jordan Spieth become the youngest PGA Tour victor since 1931 with his win at the John Deere Classic. Next week, 10-year-old Lucy Li will become the youngest to play in a USGA event when she competes at the U.S. Women's Amateur at CC of Charleston.
There are many examples of young, promising golfers failing to fulfill expectations (the names Michelle Wie, David Gossett and Ty Tryon come to mind) but there are just as many who've been successful at an early age (Lexi Thompson, Matteo Manassero and Spieth). Some have thrived through the employment of Earl Woods' philosophy -- compete against players your own age and learn how to dominate -- and some, like Guan, have found success playing against highly-skilled players.
No two golfers are alike, so their routes to success shouldn't be either. There's no guarantee that any of these youngsters will have a career as golfers, so let's give them the stage while they've earned it. Follow @BrendanMohlerGW