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The Golfers Who Were Instantly Successful After Turning Pro

By: | Fri 08 Sep 2023

THE eyes of the world will be on Ludvig Aberg when he makes his Ryder Cup debut. He was an amateur golfer until June 2023 and had played in just nine professional tournaments when Luke Donald handed him a wild card for Europe’s team to face the USA in Italy.

Nobody has qualified for the Ryder Cup quicker than the young Swede but he is by no means the only golfer to waste little or no time making an impact after turning professional.

Earlier this year, Rose Zhang instantly fulfilled that hype by etching her name in the record books after becoming the first player in 72 years to win on the LPGA Tour in her professional debut. And who can forget Lydia Ko winning the Canadian Open twice while still an amateur!

Here, we look at some others in the men's game who blazed a trail in double-quick time.

Matteo Manassero

Matteo Manassero

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

In 2009, at the age of 16, the Italian became the youngest-ever winner of the Amateur Championship. It meant he qualified for The Open at Turnberry, where he played with Tom Watson and finished in a tie for 13th. He ended the year as the world’s top-ranked amateur. In 2010, aged 16 years and 11 months and 22 days he became the youngest golfer to make the cut at The Masters. He turned professional in May 2010 and won the Castello Masters in October, aged 17, becoming the youngest winner in European Tour history. He won again the following year and again in 2012, making him the first teenager to record three wins. And in 2013 he became the youngest ever winner of the BMW PGA Championship.

Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard was already a familiar figure on the old European Tour when he turned professional. He had played in several tournaments as an amateur and was clearly a hugely promising prospect. He joined the paid ranks after finishing as the low amateur at The Masters in 1999, having already made the cut in several events. His first title came in his sixth start at the Irish Open and he finished second to Tiger Woods at the US PGA Championship before making his Ryder Cup debut in 1999 as a 19-year-old.

Tiger Woods

Woods had a sensational amateur career, winning the US Amateur three times and finishing in a tie for 41st at The Masters in 1995 and recording a score of 281 at The Open in 1996. He turned professional shortly afterwards and by the end of 1996 he had won three times on the PGA Tour. The rest, as they say, is history.

Shane Lowry

You will know that Lowry won The Open in 2019 in front of an enthusiastic home gallery. What you may not recall is that he won the Irish Open in 2007. He defeated Robert Rock at the third hole of a sudden-death playoff. The remarkable thing about this is that he was still an amateur at the time and did not pick up a penny for his efforts. Rock walked away with first-place prize money.

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy had a successful amateur career, topping the world rankings as a 17-year-old in 2007. Later that year, he turned professional and soon established himself, winning for the first time on the European Tour in 2009 and on the PGA Tour in 2010. He went on to win four majors, top the world rankings and claim the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai on multiple occasions.

Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus won the US Amateur in 1959 and 1961 and finished runner-up to Arnold Palmer in the 1960 US Open - as an amateur. He turned professional in 1961, at the age of 21. His first win as a professional came a few months later when he defeated Arnold Palmer in a playoff at the 1962 US Open. It was Palmer who had beaten him in 1960. It was the first of Jack’s 18 majors - the last came in 1986 when he was 46 years old.

Jon Rahm

Rahm had a stellar amateur career. He was the first man to win the Ben Hogan award twice, in 2015 and 2016. He played in the Phoenix Open as an amateur in 2015 and finished the week tied fifth. He was the world’s top-ranked amateur for 60 weeks. He turned professional after the US Open in 2016. His first start as a pro came at the Quicken Loans National, where he finished in a tie for third. His first win came at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2017.

Seve Ballesteros

Seve turned pro in 1974 at the age of 16. Two years later he caused a sensation at The Open at Royal Birkdale when he led after 54 holes. He eventually finished second but would win the Dutch Open a month later. He ended the year winning the order of merit. At the age of 18!

Trevor Immelman

The South African had enjoyed some success in Europe but his rookie season on the PGA Tour was something special. He won the Western Open and finished fifth at the Canadian Open and Tour Championship. He ended the year in seventh place on the money list and was named Rookie of the Year.

John Daly

The Wild Thing is best remembered for winning the US PGA Championship at Crooked Stick after driving through the night to make his tee time after a series of withdrawals. What is not so well known is that he did so as a rookie. It was a remarkable season - he had 11 top-25 finishes and was also third at the Tour Championship and Chattanooga Classic. It was his best year on the PGA Tour.

Jordan Spieth

When Spieth turned pro in December 2012 he had no status on any tour but he took advantage of sponsors’ invitations to earn $500,000 by the end of April 2013 and claim full membership. From then until the end of the season, he posted eight top-10 finishes, won the John Deere Classic and was a dominant force in the FedEx Cup playoffs, finishing in the top 20 in all four events. He almost won the Tour Championship, finishing second, and was a captain's pick to the United States Presidents Cup team.

Arnold Palmer

Palmer was a fine amateur golfer, winning the US Amateur in 1954. He turned professional in November that year and wasted little time in picking up his first professional title, the 1955 Canadian Open. He was renowned for his attacking style and quickly became the most popular player on the PGA Tour. He is credited with effectively saving The Open Championship, which he won in 1961 and 1962 at a time when many American professionals refused to cross the Atlantic to play.

Gary Player

At the age of 14, Player played his first round of golf and parred the first three holes. At age 16, he announced that he would become number one in the world. At age 17, he became a professional golfer. He went on to record a staggering 159 tournament wins around the world, including nine majors. His first success came at the East Rand Open in 1955 when he was 19. He won the South African Open 13 times, easily a record.

Bobby Jones

Jones was a career amateur but it is worth recording his achievements here. He won the US Open four times, The Open three times, the US Amateur five times and The Amateur Championship once. In 1930 he turned the world of golf on its head by winning the US Open, US Amateur, The Open and The Amateur Championship, after which he retired from competitive golf. He was just 28. His lasting legacy was to create The Masters.

But is doesn’t always work out…

Danny Lee

In February 2009, Danny Lee won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia as an 18-year-old amateur. At the time he was the youngest winner on the European Tour (the event was co-sanctioned). He was also the world’s top-ranked amateur and played in the Masters in April 2009, but missed the cut. He turned professional soon afterwards but struggled for several years until finally winning the Greenbrier Classic in 2015. It was his last win until he claimed a LIV Golf victory in Tucson in March 2023.

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Tags: PGA Tour lpga LIV Golf LET FedEx Cup european tour dp world tour daily picks

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