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LPGA in discussions about young pros

Faced with a growing number of teenagers who want to turn pro, LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens has organized a one-day forum in New York with other major sports commissioners to figure out the best way to make sure the kids are ready.

The forum -- ``Phenoms to Professionals: Successful Transitions'' -- will be Dec. 7 at the W Hotel, with a panel that includes commissioners David Stern (NBA), Gary Bettman (NHL), Don Garber (MLS), Bivens and Larry Scott, chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour.

Bivens became LPGA commissioner in September and has had four teenagers petition to join. The LPGA Tour has a policy that members must be 18 years old.

``It seemed like lots of other sports were having this issue,'' Bivens said in a telephone interview from Japan, where the LPGA Tour is playing this week. ``The idea of the forum is to get all of the sports together and look at the body of evidence out there. I don't think this phenom thing is going to stop.''

As part of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement agreed to in June, U.S. players will have to wait one year after the date their high school class graduates before they can join the league.

Aree Song was 17 when she successfully petitioned the LPGA Tour to join before she turned 18, because she had played several tournaments and demonstrated she could travel and handle life on the road.

But the LPGA took a tougher stand by denying the petition for 17-year-old Morgan Pressel, the U.S. Women's Open runner-up. Pressel, who will try to get her card at Q-school next month, can't join the tour until she turns 18 in May.

Michelle Wie turned pro last month at age 15, although she is not expected to join the LPGA Tour until she finishes high school and turns 18.

Along with making sure the teenagers fit in, Bivens wants them to last.

``The biggest motivation is to take any of the young people coming out on the tour, whether it's Morgan Pressel or Michelle Wie, and make sure they're still playing when they're 35 or 40,'' she said.

The forum will include a discussion on strategies for sports, along with meeting the needs of young athletes, such as their education and dealing with worldwide travel and media exposure. Among those participating are representatives from 15 top sports leagues and development specialists.

 

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