Tour changes rules: Minimum age set at 18; sponsor invites increased to 12

Tour changes rules: Minimum age set at 18; sponsor invites increased to 12

ONE could be called “The Ty Tryon Rule” and the other should be referred to as “The Charles Howell III Initiative,” but the PGA Tour Policy Board voted last week at its meeting during the Bell Canadian Open in Ile Bizard, Quebec, to set the minimum age for the tour at 18 and to increase the number of sponsor exemptions a player may accept in a year from seven to 12. Final action on these measures will be taken at a meeting in November.

According to one source at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the board gave preliminary approval to an age limit of 18 for membership on the PGA or Buy.com tours “in an effort to ensure that individuals earning memberships are physically and mentally mature enough to handle the rigors of the tour.” The board also determined that in order to enter the PGA Tour Qualifying School, a player must turn 18 prior to the last official money event of the following season.

Tryon, who turned 17 this summer and will make his professional debut this week at the Tampa Bay Classic, and Kevin Na, who turns 18 Sept. 15, pushed the issue to the front burner by announcing recently they would forgo the rest of their high school golf eligibility to become professionals. The issue also came up on the LPGA when Aree and Naree Song Wongluekiet played in the Nabisco Championship when they were 14. The LPGA has a minimum membership age of 18.

According to the source at the meeting, it was decided that if an individual under 18 should otherwise qualify for an exemption, he would be entitled to the remainder of the exemption and would be permitted to become a member upon turning 18. When asked if the rule change–there previously was no age limit–might cause legal problems, the source said: “Doesn’t everything?”

The board also ratified a revision regarding nonmember access to the tour, allowing a nonmember to play a maximum of 12 PGA Tour official money events. Under the new provision, a nonmember is still restricted to a maximum of seven sponsor exemptions but could fill out the remainder of a 12-event schedule by other criteria (such as finishing in the top 10 of a tour event, or qualifying for the Players Championship, Masters, U.S. Open, British, PGA and WGC events). Under existing regulations, participation in a tournament by a nonmember as a result of a top-10 finish the previous week counts toward the nonmember’s seven-event limit of sponsor exemptions and top-10 finishes. Howell’s success this year as a nonmember brought attention to this issue.

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