There once was a time when you had to be ready; you had to be old enough.
There was so much concern about the timing of young players; had they had enough amateur experience? Enough time playing college golf? Enough time on the mini-tours? Enough time laboring away learning the intricacies of playing the relentless professional tours?
In case you hadn’t noticed, all that’s pretty much out the window now. I had sort of noticed with the arrival of young players like Rory McIlroy, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day among others. But they seem to keep coming.
There is a young phenom on the European Tour, Italian, Matteo Manassero, who has just exploded onto the world stage. This kid is 17 years old. 17! And he’s already won, becoming the youngest winner in European Tour history when he won the Castello Masters in Castellon, Valencia, Spain by 4 shots at 17 years and 188 days. He just did that last month. I had a vague recollection of his efforts at the 2009 Masters: he was the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters…and ended up T36. He turned pro right after the Masters (he had retained his amateur status to attract the Masters invitation, amateurs being an important tradition at the Masters).
Today, he tied for second in the UBS Hong Kong Open, just one back from winner, Ian Poulter. And he did it by shooting a flawless 8-under 62 in the final round with an eagle and six birdies.
And he has done all of this over his brief career with incredible precision, hitting 71.43% of the fairways, 72.22% of the greens and averaging only 29.64 putts per round.
In many ways, it’s not fair to put Manassero on some sort of “best ever” pedestal yet because of historic age restrictions on teenagers capable of scoring at a professional level, but deemed not mature enough to handle the milieu.
That said, this kid is the real deal and God only knows what he’ll mature into as a player. But what he’s done so far is to provide still more testimony to the majesty of the human spirit and points to the folly of questioning what might be possible for another human being…or even yourself. While conventional wisdom is “reasonable” in most instances, there will, it seems, always be outliers like Manassero who ought to be celebrated..and encouraged.
On the other hand, have you ever played a kid in a video game? Maybe it’s like that.