What's with young athletes?

By Brian Howard

I found myself a week ago in a haze. Not a purple haze but wondering why so many of today's young athletes decided to forgo college and jump into the pros.

A week ago from today, Michelle Wie announced at a morning press conference at her high school in Hawaii that she was officially turning professional.

I was really upset at this so-called move. Is she a good enough athlete at the tender-age of 15 to turn pro, or is this decision driven by her caddie. ... her father?

Let's be honest here, Wie is probably better than some male golfers, but has no and I mean NO business being on the same course with the men.

That comment doesn't mean I don't support the likes of Annika Sorenstam trying it. I love the idea of her trying to hit with the big boys. After all, she is an LPGA champion.

But Wie, after this season, had earned tons of money in endorsements and as of the announcement of turning pro, gained endorsement deals from Nike and Sony, said to be worth $10 million a year.

Although she pledged $500,000 to the U.S. Golf Hurricane Relief Fund, what does she plan to do with the rest of the money she has made and will make? Perhaps buy a new dress or some new clubs or wait, I got it, a new purse.

Wie and many young athletes should never turn down the opportunity to at least attend one year of college. Heck, Tiger Woods compiled one of the most impressive amateur records in golf history, winning six USGA national championships, plus the NCAA title, before turning professional on Aug. 27, 1996 as a 20-year-old product from Anaheim, Calif. He concluded his amateur career by winning an unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur title, finishing with a record 18 straight match-play victories.

Although Wie is not expected to join the LPGA Tour until she turns 18, but she can play as many as eight LPGA Tour events each of the next two years. She will likely play a couple of other times on the , cough, PGA Tour, and men's tours overseas.

Wie's only significant title came in the U.S. Women's Amateur at Public Links, which she won at age 13 to become the youngest champion of a USGA title for adults.

But this brings me to the next point, why turn pro, why now?

Wie is just one of many youths that is corrupted by sports agents and endorsements throughout the world. Turning pro now may or may not be Wie's best advice. Consider this, Wie could be the next Anna Kournikova. If people don't remember, Kournikova had a wealth of talent on the tennis court.

I mean she had looks that could kill, including courting hockey's Pavel Bure, but could never win a tennis match. Is Wie headed down this path?

The younger athletes may be better than some veterans, but overall, youth still lacks fundamentals.

Take into consideration how long it is taking Freddy Adu to play well for D.C. United on the soccer field or LeBron James on the basketball court. James wasn't exactly a smart person off the court. His mother, Gloria, had to been courting agents since his freshman year at Akron St. Vincent, St. Mary High School. A Hummer on his birthday was certainly a gift of gratitude from Gloria, cough, an agent.

The NFL has imposed a rule that no college player can enter the draft until after their second season. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League is constantly drafting high school players. The NBA is still trying to adopt a rule that athletes can not enter until after a year or two of college eligibility.

In the end, Wie's talent's have yet been seen and although I think she may be the next Sorenstam, more than likely, she'll be another Kournikova with good looks.

(Brian Howard is a sports writer at The Daily. He can be e-mailed at: bhoward@news-daily.com )