There is a large number of different professions in the world. Each of them is useful and unique in its way. Each sets a number of demands for those who decide to bind their lives with it. The current paper is concerned with the exploration of what it means to be a professional golfer. We will investigate the main differences between amateur and professional golf players, will focus on the basic requirements one has to meet to become a professional in this sphere, will consider the main traits one either has to possess or to develop to become a professional golfer. The paper also throws light on the basic problems a professional golfer can come across and, specifically, the rules one has to follow to become a member of the Professional Golf Association (PGA).
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To begin with, we should say that there is no sharp distinction between a professional and an amateur golfer. The thing is that an amateur who is playing for money inevitably loses his or her status at least once and thus appears to be forbidden to participate in any amateur tournament. For a professional golfer, it is not obligatory to play in amateur tournaments. It is not that easy for a professional golfer to retain his/her status as an amateur one, as agreeing not to be paid for participation in the tournament is not the only requirement for this.
In general, the progression the novice golfer goes through when he/she learns to swing a club can be presented in the following way. The instructor demonstrates the swing, the novice observes the procedure. The instructor demonstrates and explains the specific techniques he or she uses: for instance, how to hold the club, or, how to take a correct position. The first step the beginner golfer makes is to get the proper position to swing the club with the instructor’s help. In most cases, it happens that on the first try the novice golfer either misses the ball entirely or makes the divot in the grass. The instructor keeps on guiding the student until he/she successfully hits the ball. As some time passes the instructor steps back and offers some hints to improve the swing, the student is at last hitting on one’s own. Now painstaking hours of everyday practice separate the golfer from his/her most cherished dream of becoming a professional golfer.
Becoming a professional golfer is not an easy task to cope with. To name a few requirements to become such we suggest below the list of the basic ones:
- Practicing daily. The profession requires much devotion from the would-be professional. A golf school is the best place to start one’s golfing career as it encourages and even makes one practice regularly.
- Playing amateur events. This is important for understanding what success one makes. Also, amateur events are helpful for seeing the drawbacks of one’s play. Moreover, amateur events give the golfer the confidence to take his or her golf dreams to the next level of proficiency.
- Registering for the PGA tour. Once a golfer feels competent enough to take the game to the professional level, he or she is expected to start the process of getting one’s PGA Tour card. The qualifying process is rather long and difficult. Only about 1 % of those who register for a PGA Tour card get a card each year. But the game is really worth the candle.
- Staying on the PGA Tour. To retain the PGA Tour card one has to play well enough each year. Being in the top 120 players or finishing in the top ten in a major are the best ways to retain one’s place in the PGA (How to Become a Professional Golfer).
While thinking of becoming a professional golfer one should also consider the financial aspect of the thing.
The fact that professional golf represents a relatively pure form of capitalism makes it unique. The problem is that, unlike many professional sportsmen, golfers do not have guaranteed contracts. Or, to be more exact, golfers do have contracts with equipment and other types of companies, but these contracts are most commonly based on the golfer’s past and current performance. Moreover, those engaged in professional golf are responsible for their travel and meal expenses. This means, therefore, that “from a financial perspective, golfers should base their investment decisions on which aspects of their game to practice by determining which skills lead to the greatest increase in earnings.” (Moy 65)
If we consider the requirements one has to meet to enter the Professional Golf Association we will see that they are rather high and that the number of applicants significantly exceeds the number of those that the tournament can support. The requirements worked out by the PGA are as follows:
Players who can enter a tournament include the top 125 money winners from the previous year, winners of tournaments over the last two years, and winners of major tournaments, such as the US Open, the Masters, and the PGA Championship, from the past ten years. Players can also gain exemption to the tour by placing high enough in the tour qualifying tournament known as the tour school or by becoming one of the top 10 money earners in the tour’s “minor league”, known as the Nike Tour from the previous year. Finally, sponsors of tournaments receive a number of exemptions that can be used to invite players who do not qualify under other categories (Moy 65).
The Senior PGA and LPGA have the same system to structure those who can enter the tournament. As far as the money problem in professional golf is concerned, we should admit that even the golfer who has entered a tournament is not guaranteed any prize money. According to Ehrenberg and Bognanno (1990), a key element of the prize structure is marginal return incentives with the players’ relative performance. “The marginal return from improving performance by one rank is much higher for players whose ranks are close to the leaders after three rounds.” (1310)
It turns out that professional golfers often give up their occupation as it is not profitable enough. For instance, Susie Laing who spent six years in the US being a professional golfer had to quit because it was difficult for her to make living by playing golf, she changed her career to marketing executive. Here are her words:
“I have been golfing since was three. I won a scholarship to the University of San Francisco and, after graduated, I qualified to play on the West Coast Ladies’ Golf Tour.
“It was really hard trying to make a living. By Christmas last year, I was fed up trying to keep on top of my expenses, so I came home.
“When dad asked me to join his firm, I agreed. It took a while to learn the ropes but I’m really enjoying the jewelry business.
“I’m playing amateur now and will represent Laings at golfing events.
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“It was really hard to make a living from golf” (A Change for the Better 5).
Therefore, this factor becomes one of the determinant ones while choosing professional golf as a career. Especially, it is true considering the difficulty of giving up the favorite job because of financial problems.
Still, we should admit that many professional golfers make their living not from playing but from teaching the game. They either run golf clubs and courses or deal with golf equipment. There is even special terminology that is applied to different occupations of professional golfers: golf pro refers to those who are involved in golf service, club professional or director of golf stands to represent the senior professional golfer in the club. Senior professionals often have assistant professionals, those who give golf lessons are known as teaching professionals, golf instructors, or golf coaches. Golfers who earn from playing in golf tournaments are referred to as tournament pros or tour professionals.
As it is seen, the professional golfer can demonstrate his/her skills and abilities in different roles each of which requires one constant professional and personal development.
All pros and cons of the career of professional golfer considered, we still want to conclude with optimistic remarks. Being a professional golfer is rather challenging, but at the same time rather rewarding. Being a professional golfer means sharing the game with other people who like it as well. It means to travel from tournament to tournament developing one’s professional abilities and making new friends. It means seeing the world and sharing the game with a legendary heritage. To play a game you love and to write your name in the pages of golfing history – isn’t it a good target to shoot at?
“A Change for the Better: PROFESSIONAL GOLFER to MARKETING EXECUTIVE, LAWYER to REIKI PRACTITIONER; Running Your Own Business Can Be Risky but These Young Entrepreneurs Were Keen to Prove That They Could Make It on Their Own.” Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland). 2005: 5.
“How to Become a Professional Golfer.” Web.
Ehrenberg, Ronald G. and Michael L. Bognanno. “Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?” Journal of Political Economy 98.61 (1990): 1307-1324.
Moy, Ronald L., and Thomas Liaw. “Determinants of Golf Tournament Earnings.” American Economist 42.1 (1998): 65.
Sweeney, Diane. Learning along the Way: Professional Development by and for Teachers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2003.