The NCAA Individual Match Play Championship
(formerly the U.S. Amateur)
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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[ comments ]
First Post EVER. THAT is how much I agree with this! The rules should NOT make an exception for college students.
Should the rules of golf make exceptions about other things?!
How about changing penalties based on your handicap? Sure I ripped a wicked slice into the water, but I’m a 20+ handicap, so that should only count as one stroke!
No grounding the club in a hazard unless you have a blue collar job…
White collar workers are allowed three club lengths of relief when ever relief is allowed… AND it can be closer to the hole.
The unemployed can move a ball out of a divot if it’s in the fairway.
If they are going to make exceptions for college students, then they should come up with and make exceptions for other people as well!
I fully agree with your point although I'd never thought of it before I read this article.
For once I agree with every utterance.
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