UNLV's Han staying in Las Vegas
He made a lot of news earlier this month for becoming the first amateur golfer to advance to the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School since the USGA allowed amateurs to do so in 2001. Yet after finishing tied for 149th at Orange County National outside Orlando, and earning only a conditional card on the Nationwide Tour, UNLV junior Seung-Su Han has decided to stay an amateur and will play for the Rebels during the spring season.
"I love it here at UNLV and I still think there is a lot more I can learn here," Han said in a press release. "By coming back and remaining in school and spending more time here, I feel that I can become even more ready by the time I turn pro. That was a big thing for me, that I want to be more ready for when I am out there [professionally], and I obviously think UNLV is a great place for that."
I must admit, I was surprised at all the media attention Han received in recent weeks. Yes, being the first collegiate in this position is historic and how he fared should have been of interest (as was the case with Florida senior Sandra Gal playing at LPGA Tour Q school this month, where she earned a full card and decided to turn pro). It's just that I think some of the media took Han's potential "trailblazing" a bit too far.
No doubt if Han had performed better and earned a PGA Tour card, or even a full Nationwide card, he would have turned the heads of his fellow collegians while likely turning pro himself. But he wouldn't have caused any floodgates to open. For starters, the $4,500 entry fee helps prevent many players from acting on their daydreams too hastily. Han's contemporaries also need to realize just what it took for him to even get to the final stage: Nine rounds over nearly nine weeks, where he had to shoot 47 under par just.
College coaches I'm convinced would begin to step in and "steer" any players not really prepared for Q school from heading in that direction if the numbers suddenly began to rise. (UNLV coach Dwaine Knight was surprisingly supportive of Han; I'm not sure that would have been the universal approach.) Will we see more players follow Han's lead? Definitely. But I wouldn't expect any more than a handful to try this in any given year. The USGA changed its rules almost six years ago, with the NCAA allowing for it in the last few years; don't you think there would have been the much-feared exodus already if it was considered such a viable option?
If you're really looking for ominous precedents, it's Gal that should be the cause for concern for fans college golf fans. Consider that Gal only had to go through one stage of qualifying to get LPGA International in the first place, making it a much easier road to follow. Moreover, Gal's excellent play in the first stage of Q school and the finals (she finished T-14) provides additional evidence of something many have been saying for quite some time now: the gap between elite female amateur golfers and female professionals is pretty narrow. Despite Florida women's coach Jill Briles-Hinton pleading with Gal not to turn pro immediately after her final round at Q school, the choice was a pretty easy one for the native of Germany to make.
This comes in concert with top junior golfer Vicky Hurst recently announcing that she's going to turn pro next year, making it six straight AJGA girls' players of the year that have skipped college for pro golf. With young players such as Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer having success on the LPGA Tour, if Gal performs well in 2008 you might see more female collegians give Q school a try.