April 21, 2009
Fifteen years from now, we may well look back on 2009 as the year that golf's next great wave of talent first took the stage. We've already seen Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa debut, and this weekend at New Orleans, the fashion-forward Danny Lee makes his pro debut.
New Zealander Lee, who's all of 18 years old, already has etched his name into golf's record books; last summer, he became the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Amateur, supplanting a fella by the name of Woods. (T.J. Auclair points out an interesting sidelight: that victory gave Lee an automatic invitation to the Masters earlier this month, but if Lee had turned pro before Augusta, he would have forfeited the invitation. Colt Knost did exactly that in 2008. Lee missed the cut at Augusta, but still, he played.)
While it's impossible to predict how well any kid will do on the circuit -- see: Ty Tryon -- Lee has already demonstrated he's got some juice. Back in February, he won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia, an event sanctioned by several major tours. Sure, he's younger than some of the clubs in your bag, but he's already been through the publicity crucible, as has every young golfer at this point. Everybody assumes any rookie will go years before winning an event, but with guys like Lee and McIlroy -- who's lurked around the top 20 of almost every tournament he's played -- the next generation may be seizing control of the game faster than we expect.