NCAA Individual Match Play Championship
(formerly the U.S. Amateur)

The Texas WedgeHog Sounds Off

OK, I'll warn you. I'm on a soapbox this morning. Once again, the U.S. Amateur turns out to be an extension of the NCAA golf season, as all but one of the final sixteen players, and all of the final eight are current college players. Now, these are great players, obviously, but are they really amateur golfers? My position is no. At least not in the great tradition of amateur golf as defined by Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur that ever lived. And maybe the greatest golfer of all time, in my opinion.

The Rules of Golf are very clear in defining an amateur. Paraphrasing, it allows that you are not an amateur if you take compensation for your golfing prowess or skills or services, or if someone else underwrites your travels for competition. Fine. But then the Rules make an exception for those who play golf in college . . . who have all their tournaments scheduled, paid for and coordinated; all they have to do is show up for the plane. Who are "paid" in the form of a complete college education, including room and board, expenses, etc. If you’ve put a kid through college lately, you know that this is not a token expense. There are many families in America who don’t have combined annual gross income that equals what a year at Stanford costs.

Please do not take this as any kind of slam at the college kids. They are just doing what the rules allow, but how many true, working-man amateurs have won the U.S. Amateur championship in the past 25 years or so, since college golf hit the big time? And when was the last? For a serious out-of-college true amateur player to keep his game honed to compete with these kids, he’d have to win the lottery. They go to class a few hours a day, and practice and/or play top-notch golf courses – FREE – the rest of the time. They have access – FREE – to the finest fitting equipment – FREE, launch monitors - FREE, golf clubs - FREE, instruction – FREE, and a steady stream of top level competition to keep their edge sharp – all paid for by the “sponsoring” institution. Even if a serious “real” amateur player had the time and skill to keep his game at this level, it would cost thousands of dollars a year to play that many top level competitive events. The local member-guest really doesn’t count.

Every year, I watch these fully subsidized college phenoms duke it out for this trophy. They are all on the pre- mini-tour, polishing their games for a shot at the PGA Tour. Some will make it, more won’t. But to call them “amateurs” . . . to me . . . is an affront to the legacy of Bobby Jones and other great amateurs before and after.

The USGA seems quite open to changing the rules. Isn’t this one that should be examined?

Sound off, guys. If you agree, we can send this entire dialog to the USGA. If not, knock me off the soap box and I’ll quit whining.

photo source
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
You know. i never really thought about it before this post. You're right in that regard i think. I consider it a lost opportunity that i missed out on college golf (a whole 'nother story entirely). If i hadn't, i wonder what might have been for me, even in a small school. I had complete access to a professional whenever i wanted, free range, free golf whenever i wanted, free fittings. I wouldn't have had the schooling comped, but still it would have gone worlds to improve my game rather than deciding if i wanted to eat, buy books, or play golf once a month. I don't think that leaving them out would be a great thing , but maybe putting a cap on how many could be in? Like have a little mini qualifier to qualify? Just my 2 Cents.
Banker85 says:
I am right next to you on this Terry! These kids basically get all the privleges of the pros, except pros probably drop some cash here and there. They get everything free, they are basically sponsored by miilion dollars organizations. Maybe since they are not getting any winnings from playing that is why they are amatuers, but when it comes to this tournament they have a disticnt advantage. Unless someone with Bruce Wayne style cash who can go out hire best instructors, practice until their hands bleed and get best equpument all on their own dime??? something is not right.
dallas251 says:
While I agree that the US Am is clearly dominated by college kids these days, isn't that why they created the mid-am? I mean it may not be quite as prestigious, but if you win you still get a trip to the Masters!
DoubleDingo says:
Send it to the USGA. It needs to be examined.
TeT says:
Sorry dont buy it...
twood says:
Nope. Not buyin' it.
wrhall02 says:
Reminds me of the pros in the Olympics arguments. I am rather neutral on both issues, but think WG has posed valid argument.

Most of the college golfers will not make it to any of the tours, this could be their last chance for glory in competitive golf. But, I also think all top NCAA athletes these days are pros in disguise.

Since I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other...I'll shut up now.
Agustin says:
Rule 6-6 of the Rules of Amateur Status states:

6-6. Membership
An amateur golfer of golf skill or reputation must not accept an offer of membership in a golf club or privileges at a golf course, without full payment for the class of membership or privilege, if such an offer is made as an inducement to play for that club or course.

Hmmm, isn't this exacltly what Academic Institutions are providing the NCAA golfer, golfing priviledges in exchante to play for them...

If you receive priviledges to represent any organization in a golfing event you are not an amateur. They should have separate tournaments NCAA golf Championship and US Amanteur Championship.
bkuehn1952 says:
College golfers certainly have an advantage over most amateurs who must pay their own way. Of course, if one comes from money, one may purchase the services of experts and obtain all the latest and greatest in equipment. Should we ban wealthy people because they enjoy an advantage over the rest of us?

The Mid-Amateur was a nice way for the USGA to create a tournament for top amateurs that essentially eliminates college-age players. If one is a top amateur (a group of which I am certainly NOT a member) there are plenty of places to compete and bring home fancy silver-plated flower pots.
Bobcat66j says:
When I played in High School we played courses for Free, tournaments were paid for and once a year we had "an over night" trip....I guess we were not amateurs either....
brianshaffer32 says:
Bobcat has it right, although it would be great to see something separate you can't throw all of these college guys under the bus just because they worked harder and were better when they were younger than the older ams
Nethmonkey says:
@Bobcat66j actually your parents (and every other parent in the school district) probably paid for it in city taxes that go to your school. Perhaps you even did fund raisers (selling food at football concession stands, candy bars what not). In essence it was paid for.
Bernie Duffer says:
As mentioned above, the USGA has already addressed the issue. That is why we have the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship.
eventHorizon says:
Really? All collegiate/high school athletes in any sport should be considered pros because of the perks they receive? This would be a complete overhaul of all school based athletics, not a simple change brought to light by a forum to the USGA. Where does this ruling end then? What about the young boy whose parents let him play at their private club? Does that make it unfair since he is being provided access to a course and a practice facility? Can a school not provide a basketball court to practice on? Are you guys kidding me? The U.S. Am. is for the best of the best. Do you honestly think, given the same privileges as a student, you could play at that level? They had to get to that level before college, in college they are tuning their game. These guys are that good. Perks or no perks.
stedar says:
I agree with eventHorizon.
Students are exactly that - students. There are a few that are in the 30's that still call themselves a student, but in this case, the Am is all based around the young.
We can be forgiven to think we didn't get the same opportunities as the kids today. Realistically, the world is a very different place - I mean, who would have thought playing golf could earn you 100's of millions. And golf isn't even the best paid - there are a lot of pro sports people earning a great living. Then again, the money is relative to their results.
Sorry Terry - the kids are just that and if they can hit it consistently to score low, then we need to appreciate them and help them get even better. I think fundamentally, that is what every sporting organisation is trying to do.
This is why world records always get broken and new talent in sports; like golf, emerge and comparisons start. Think back to the days of Bobby and what the pros were earning then. Not quite the same is it...?
grady3rd says:
I think you're seriously off-base with your analysis here. Yes it's true that these amateur athletes participate in school-sponsored events, but they are not paid for their play. Some receive scholarships in exchange for their athletic contributions, but they are still required to maintain a decent grade-point average while also working on their golf game. You state a very one-sided comparison of other (non-collegiate) amateurs but fail to recognize the hard work and dedication to studies that most of these NCAA golfers endure. They work twice as hard as most youngsters, and only got to where they are by working harder than anyone else at their peer level. They weren't born with scholarships for pete's sake, they earned them through hard work, hours of practice, and sacrifice of other activities. Your post does them a serious disservice. Bobby Jones was a serious student too, just like these kids. Stop whining.
Matt Otskey says:
Plain and simple, the NCAA is a joke. I have a friend who plays baseball at Rutgers. According to the NCAA, he can receive gloves, bats, spikes, and anything he needs to play for free, but if I take him out to lunch and pay for him, he is in violation of rules.

The NCAA needs an entire overhaul. There are so many loopholes. College sports is a business therefore, these players should be considered non-amateurs.
Eddy Whitaker says:
i will say this...for all those who think college players get everything free..your wrong..not every college player gets everything for free...Only the very top schools usually do....The majority of other colleges make their players pay for their own clubs...and other items....At my school.. we only got 3 golf balls a tournament..and thats it...if we needed more, then we had to buy our own. We had to buy our own clubs. Yes we got to practice at a course for free, but if it is a packed day, then we usually got kicked off to make room for paying guests....and if we were playing..and a group comes up behind us...we have to let them through....sometimes 9 holes could take over 3 hours to play...not everything is free and the things that are have restrictions
wedgeguy says:
This has been fun, guys, and thanks for sharing the diverse viewpoints. That's what makes this blog fun for all of us. Please understand that I was not in any way dissing these kids' talent. Quite to the contrary, I'm in awe of what they can accomplish with golf clubs in their hands. But to play this game at the highest level requires tons of time and talent both. And the working stiff just does not have the time or funds to compete effectively with the college kids -- point made by the lack of non-college amateurs at the US Amateur. Kudos to Peter Uhlein on his win, by the way.
grady3rd says:
I still think you're missing the big picture Terry. The only point made by having lots of college players at the Amateur Championship is this: The best players are going to college. (They weren't made the best IN college, they were the best before they got there). If you look at virtually every sport campaigned at the amateur level, the best players are those that were good enough to represent their schools.
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