Ginger Howard hasn't even celebrated her 18th birthday, but if she somehow manages to make it through the final stage of LPGA Q-School and secure her card for 2012, there's a good chance she won't be asking for any presents for her birthday in March.
That's because she's on the verge of getting the biggest gift of all: full-time status on the LPGA Tour. If Howard does qualify, she would not only become the second youngest golfer on the LPGA -- 16-year-old Lexi Thompson currently holds that title -- but only the fifth African-American member since the tour was formed back in 1980.
Since Lexi Thompson petitioned the LPGA for the opportunity to become a fully exempt member earlier this year -- tour rules state you must be at least 18 -- and was granted the opportunity by commissioner Mike Whan to qualify via Q-School, the rules have certainly changed.
Thompson went on to win the first stage of Q-School by 10 shots before winning the Navistar Classic to bypass qualifying, but the uproar over her exclusion certainly opened some doors for other players to capitalize on her recent success.
Howard happens to be one of them. Like Lexi, she's far from your average teen phenom. The 17-year-old had five victories on the Sun Coast Series women's mini-tour this summer and also took home medalist honors at the second stage of LPGA Q-School.
There's a reason Mike Whan granted her special permission to play at Q-School. Howard has all the talent in the world; the only thing separating her from making the dream a reality is 90 holes of golf. It's time to see how her young nerves handle the pressure.