If you ask most people who are into sports how athletes become professionals, the vast majority will be able to tell you. Whether its baseball, basketball, hockey, football, or soccer, the path to becoming a pro can be through the pro draft or free agency. That is, you can be selected by a professional team while you are still in college, just graduated from high school, or, in some cases, as just a walk-on. In either case, there is little or no money that the individual has to put out other than the money needed to travel to the try-out facility or draft location. But what about professional golf? I’m not sure many people realize that it costs thousands of personal dollars to become a professional golfer. In fact, golf is the only sport where you have to pay to become a professional.
When I talk about paying, I’m talking about thousands of dollars. In order to try to become a pro, you have to compete in Q-School. During Q-School, if you make it through to the final qualifying round, you will have played 17 rounds of golf. Pre-qualifying is a 54-hole event at various sites around the nation. First and second round qualifying stages are 72 holes, and the final qualifying stage is 108 holes. But here’s the thing. The pre-qualifying stage costs $2,700, the first qualifying stage costs $4,500, the second qualifying stage is $4,000 and final qualifying stage is $3,500. That’s $14,700 to turn professional (it actually could be as much as $4,300 higher depending on when you file for entry). Between $14,700 and $19,000 to get your tour card and, if you do qualify through Q-School, it no longer is a straight path to the PGA Tour. Now if you are fortunate to play well and qualify, you then go to the Web.com Tour (old Nationwide Tour), a developmental tour. Here you have to hope you play well to make money and/or secure a sponsor to offset the money it takes to travel and enter the tour events.
So what happens to you if you don’t make it through Q-School? You are out all of that money and go back to either playing on much smaller tours, maybe back to some other job in the golf industry, or possibly, not playing at all. So many outstanding golfers are basically shut out of playing or don’t have the financial means to pay to become a pro. As Gary Van Sickle, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated wrote in an article published on Golf.com in 2012,
“The PGA Tour is now a closed shop.” He continues saying, “The definition of a closed shop is that it’s not open to all. The PGA Tour isn’t open to all. Hence, it’s a closed shop.”
The PGA Tour is a closed shop and so many talented golfers will never have the opportunity to show their skills. It’s time that golf had another option for golfers other than on a tour and paying out thousands of dollars. There needs to be a professional golf league, much like MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS. There needs to be an opportunity for top golfers to compete against each other and represent their town or city just like the other professional sport. A chance for golf to have role models young players can see on a consistent basis, not just once a year if you are lucky to live in an area that hosts a PGA tour event.
This is a perfect time and opportunity for a professional golf league. Golf has been on the decline for the last 3-5 years. People are leaving the game and not many people are taking up the game. Golf needs a shot of adrenaline and an infusion of excitement. It needs to lower its fees and shorten the time to play. Golf needs to change how it teaches the game and how it attracts new participants. Give fans the chance to come out each week to cheer on their favorite local players, on their favorite local golf team, and become inspired to play this great game. This generation is not taking up the game because, at this point, golf doesn’t project an exciting interaction between game and player. It’s frustrating, expensive, time-consuming, and there’s nothing grabbing their interest on a consistent basis.
We can make golf an appealing game again. However, we need to showcase the game on a consistent basis, not just Thursday through Sunday on TV. Golf is a great game. Let’s help some of those talented players who are unable to go on tour get the opportunity to show their abilities. Let’s give our youth something to cheer about. Let’s bring golf to the masses.
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