Omar Uresti recently won the PGA Professional Championship. The victory caused quite an uproar due to the fact that Uresti has spent a good part of his life as a playing professional golfer, with nearly 400 starts on the PGA Tour.

Before we allow for differences of opinion on this subject, we should note that the fault, if there is one, is not Uresti’s. He was perfectly in his right to play, because he’s qualified by the bylaws of the PGA of America, the organization that conducted the event. The question on many people’s mind is should Uresti, or any former or current touring professional, be allowed to compete against full-time club professionals?

As a lifetime club pro, I’m of course biased, but I do not believe that golfers who play the game for a living exclusively should be allowed to compete against club professionals. Club professionals are employed by a club for the purpose of running the operation, teaching, directing tournament operations, or any other duties the club requires. They are employees of the club and their primary duties include any of the above. Professional golfers, by comparison, are independent contractors whose sole concern is their game. The vast majority of their days are dedicated entirely to practicing and playing golf.  Therein lies the difference and hence the controversy; it’s simply not a level playing field.

Omar Uresti played the PGA Tour, albeit without a win or lasting status, for many years.  No matter, he was never and is still not a club pro. “Giving free tips to the members where I play and practice,” as he says he does, does not qualify one to be a club professional. The 28,000 men and women golf professionals who are, as the PGA of America puts it, “dedicated to establishing and elevating the standards of the profession and growing interest and participation in the game of golf” should have their own championship, plain and simple.

Uresti’s talent speaks for itself. Anyone who can earn a living entirely on their golf skills is playing this game at a level many people do not understand. That level is well above the average club pro, and even above the development tours. Just tee it up sometime with a professional golfer and you’ll see a game of which you’re not familiar. The power, the touch, the deft putting; it’s awesome to observe.

On a personal note, I played with Tiger Woods one day, and as amazing as it was, I was quickly reminded why I teach the game and not play it for a living. We could take it one step further and compare the Web.com Tour players to PGA Tour players, and while the difference may not be as obvious, there IS a difference. It’s one flubbed chip, one hooked tee shot out of bounds, or one missed putt in a round.

Players of Uresti’s caliber have plenty of events around the world and play for plenty of money. They should not be allowed to compete against club pros who, by definition, do not and cannot play for a living.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. This summer, he's teaching out of Southpointe Golf Club in Pittsburgh

Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions:

-- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA
-- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal
-- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine
-- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest
-- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf
-- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members)
-- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA
-- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA
-- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf
-- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA
-- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors

Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf
Academy
at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

85 COMMENTS

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  1. There is a simple way to end this. The PGA should get rid of A-3 classification. If touring pro’s really want to play in our national, section and chapter events then they can enter into the PGM program and work at a PGA recognized facility for what usually amounts to 60+ hours a week for very little pay and barely enough time to hit balls or even play golf. Mind you on top of insane work hours you will still need to complete 3-5 years of level 1-2 and 3 book work. Guys like Omar get to hit balls and play golf all day every day and for some reason he gets to wear the same badge that so many of us busted our rear ends to earn. I challenge him to do any of the most basic of tasks. How about log into TPP and set up a member/guest tournament. Good luck!

    • From one club pro to another….This is the greatest comment of all time! TPP is a blessing and a curse but there is no way that any of the tour players could could set up a tourny or purchase merchandise and have to deal with the invoices while trying to run a league at the same time.

  2. The difference between a new club pro and a new tour pro golfer is statistically obvious — accumulated practice time.
    Club pro = 10,000 hours
    …. and if you don’t accumulate these hours of constructive practice in your youthful years you will never be able to catch up because as you get older (over 25) your body is not receptive to change… in fact it physiologically and psychologically resists and cannot retain change. Sorry but that’s reality …..

      • It’s not true because you(?) altered my original posting which stated:
        Club pro = 10,000 hours
        … and that was researched across many athletic and musical activities…. the 10,000 hours of practice rule is what winners in all activities have done.
        Stop editing my comments!

      • The screw-up in my original posting was caused by the use of the symbols for ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’. The html tags kicked in and deleted the words between them. Here is my final corrected version.
        ———
        Club pro = less than 5,000 hours
        Tour pro = more than 10,000 hours …. of practice

        ———
        Pop this correction in where the “Club pro = 10,000 hours” appears in my first posting…. thus making it quite “true”…. to ooffa’s chagrin.

    • My above comments have been altered by somebody and the correct comments was:
      Club pro = 10,000 hours
      … and that was researched across many athletic and musical activities too …. the 10,000 hours of practice rule is what winners in all activities have done.

      • Oh yea? Look up the guy who tried to practice golf for 10k hours and see where that got him… takes more than time it takes talent… tour pros have the talent

    • Not true at all. Two examples that disprove your theory: Greg Norman and Larry Nelson. They both took the game up “late” in life in terms of putting in the hours to be a tour professional. Norman played other sports before taking up golf, in which he became a scratch golfer very quickly. Nelson did not take up golf until after serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. Plus, there are plenty of college players and mini tour players that put in tons of practice hours but never make it on tour.

  3. As a PGA of America Class A professional I am perfectly fine with Omar winning the PNC at Sunriver. I can admit when I got beat (played poorly enough to not even make the cut out there). The guys who are whining about Omar winning are the same guys who whine about the guys in their section who win mostly everything and every one of the 41 sections has these players. Common things I hear are “they must be playing everyday”, “they must do nothing but practice all day”, “they don’t spend any time in the shop or running tournaments’, etc, etc. Been hearing this for years and I’m only 31. The guys who are better players are by and large good players because they either a) have been a good player for a very long time regardless whether they spent time on a major tour or not, b) make their game one of their priorities by taking the time the vast majority of PGA professionals do not take or c) have access to facilities/personnel to be able to take that next step of golf ability. I can give several examples of A just in my section or neighboring MET section alone but I firmly believe and have personally witnessed B over and over so many times it is almost depressing. Yes the golf business is not as much fun as everyone outside it thinks it is. Yes there are long hours. Yes you do not have the time to devote to your own game that one would like. But the guys who are good players (yes even the ones who are former touring professionals and there are plenty of them) have to constantly work on their games or risk falling by the wayside. Contrary to the opinion of these article which basically claims every club pro is a hack, there are some very good players in every section. Bad players are afraid someone is going to take their money “unfairly”. Good players welcome the challenge as it only elevates their game.

  4. There really should be a separate classification for club pros who are ‘playing pros’. These would be the guys/girls ineligible to play in amateur events. I really don’t understand why we cannot have PGA members who maintain amateur status? You have all the benefits of the PGA (you know, like your free magazine) but don’t compete for prize money.

    • That will be a tuff go. They give a limited number of cards out and if you do not earn one, you will not be playing. No road to the Champions unless a former player has made at least 15M in their PGA Tour career or you play well enough to get one of the cards at Qschool.

  5. Do you also believe someone who played as a professional should never be able to regain his amateur status? If, as you say, playing pros are on a completely different level than club pros, and you cite their responsibilities as pros as a reason. If this holds true, then how can pros justifiably be allowed to return to amateur status. Their games haven’t changed. Yet, many pros club, mini tour etc. do just that.

    Either you are a professional, or you aren’t. If you don’t like the rules, petition to have them changed. However, until that happens, I don’t think it’s fair or decent of you to complain and criticize someone in a public forum.

  6. It would seem the question is, if it’s open only to club pros, how did OU qualify under that status?

    Seems like we’ve glossed over that detail to support the Mr. Clark’s argument, but it’s worth mentioning.

    Mr Clark is fundamentally sound, however – this would be like the varsity player being allowed to compete at the JV level.

    I went to a private high school in New England that had a nationally ranked hockey team. My Sophomore year, our best player made the 1984 Olympic team as a starting center. He was already an amazing player in HS, and this was in a a HIGHLY competitive league that routinely graduated kids with full-ride scholarships @ D1 schools and NHL contracts. When this kid came back form the Olympics mid-season, they allowed him to play, but put him on Defense. He scored 8 goals his first game and they had no choice but to bench him for the rest of the season.

    There is no comparison when you’re talking about athletic performance at this level.

  7. Authors note: I’m pushing 70 years young so there is NO personal animosity or bitterness just a suggestion to the PGA. FYI, A-3 members pay minimal dues, have no continuing education requirements and no club affiliation or responsibilities. The point is lets have a national championship for guys who work a club for a living. Just sayin…

  8. Omar Uresti was once a top 100 player. Geez why don’t we let the likes of Tiger and other former #1s do the same thing that Uresti did. Yes that would be just awesome.

  9. I see my teaching pro on the range at the club 50 -60 hours a week and he’s supposed to compete with guys like Omar and Small who play and practice all day? Great article Dennis and it’s a joke that those guys can play in tournaments like this against guys who actually work all day.

    • But I was able to hunt you down, or up, on this topic thread while you were unable to click on the “Reply” to properly respond to my cogent comments …. looks like you are firing blanks … pop!

  10. Should tour pros be able to play in a club championship? By this authors tone, they shouldn’t. They play golf for a living, then come to the club to beat the everyday members for a club championship

  11. Perhaps the current rules don’t capture the intent of the PGA tournament being run by and for club pros. However if a pro formerly played on tour, but is now plying his trade as a club pro, how would you react? Surely those pro golfers who don’t quite make it on tour usually go back to being teaching pros at golf clubs. What is the problem there? Even if they had extensive experience on professional tours, they are still club pros now. It sounds like Uresti isn’t in this category, but I don’t think you are going to eliminate the problem completely by confining qualifying to club pros only.

  12. 2nd place guy won a tourney for $100K first place last year – 3rd place has 2 W’s on the Web.com tour – maybe by the time we get to 9th place we will get someone acceptable to the author??

  13. I was a professional golfer for a few years but couldn’t make it so I just bought my amateur status back from the USGA for $34 and won some decent am tournaments

  14. Dennis,
    You cant have it both ways.
    If I was a member of the PGA I am a member regardless of what I do as a golfer. Club pros and touring pros are just the same-pros. Some are better than others so they make a higher income touring the tournaments. There are abundant examples of club pros and assistant pros making a highly successful career on the tour. Ian Poulter springs to mind immediately. I would also argue that many touring pros on the lower circuits and the lower end of the PGA and other world tours earn significantly less than some senior pros in the exclusive clubs of the US.

    • What are you even talking about? Club pros are not the same as touring pros. Club pros have to work in the golf industry, touring pros only have to work on their own game. It’s night and day different. The issue is that there are work requirements that touring pros don’t have to adhere to.

  15. It was a phenomenal day for one lucky golfer at Sunnybrook Golf Club.

    One hundred thirty-seven professionals and 11 amateurs teed off Tuesday at the Haverford Trust Philadelphia PGA Classic, but only one man took home the $100,000 grand prize – the largest prize of any one-day local PGA tournament in the country. (From June 2016)

    Seems 2nd place finisher has won more that Omar here lately – Maybe he should not have been allowed to play

  16. Omar Uresti has no status on any major pro tour.It’s not like Dustin Johnson going out and beating up on club pro’s.Also he is not exactly in his prime at 48 yrs old.He should be allowed to play

    • It has nothing to do with being in someone’s prime, it’s the fact that he doesn’t work in the golf industry. He plays golf full-time. Everyone else has to maintain certain hours at a job within the industry.

  17. Dennis,

    You made a number of valid points in your article, “The Difference Between a Club Pro and A Pro Golfer.” I am sympathetic because of my PGA roots…my dad was a club pro. However, I also worked for the PGA TOUR back in the day when the PGA TOUR and the PGA got divorced and remarried over who was going to control the brand name, PGA. The final settlement was that they would share it. PGA TOUR Properties was created to segregate and market both brands. At the heart of the issue was the access of PGA members to the PGA TOUR. As part of that agreement, the Tournament Players Series was created to provide greater access for PGA members to play professional golf and the number of spots for PGA members on the PGA TOUR was reduced. Lastly, 20 PGA members would be eligible to play in the PGA Championship and former PGA TOUR members would be eligible to play in PGA events. In my opinion, it probably makes sense to have some time period before PGA TOUR members can play PGA events, just as the USGA does before former PGA TOUR can regain their amateur status.

  18. As a former PGA Professional, I feel like this article was a waste of my time. Omar Uresti has every right to compete in this event. It’s funny reading some of the ridiculous comments made. There’s always at least one sore loser in the crowd. It’s more than unfair to point fingers at Omar because of his role at a club. I would bet there are many in this event who are “vanity pros” who entertain their members with their games, connections to exclusive clubs, etc.. It was not a shock to see comments made about Mike Small. Come on people! Omar and Mike are obviously talented, and have chosen to be club pros – IT’S THEIR CHOICE! It doesn’t matter how many events they have competed in. There are rules established for those wishing to be reinstated to amateur status. There are no rules for tour pros becoming club pros. Club pros play in many PGA Tour/web.com tour events each year. Reminds me of golfers who say teams weren’t fair because we didn’t win. Thanks for giving me a great laugh…

    • You don’t get it. How is Omar a club pro? He doesn’t do anything but work on his own game. He is exactly the same (minus the nominal annual dues) as a college kid who just graduated and turns pro. They both work on their own game only and play in the tournaments they can.

  19. Like it or not, Uresti qualified under the current rules as they are written. He should be allowed to play. Looks like the PGA needs to take a look at the qualifications and make some changes. Until they do, other “club pros” in similar situations to Uresti can try to take advantage of the rules as they are written today. Just like in the Rules of Golf…sometimes you can use them to your advantage and other times you get penalized. Uresti used the PGA qualification rules to his advantage.

  20. Welcome Dennis and other PGA members! This is what we working Am’s get to do in club championships, state and regional Am’s, and my favorite, the new and unimproved mid-am, where I get to play against 25-year old (instead of 30-year old) former pros. Again, welcome!

  21. Let me know when he doesn’t touch his own clubs for a week and a half before the 3 day memeber guest, helps wash golf cars or load bags more than once a season…or plays first 10 rounds of the season with half a brain plugged in because he’s training kids to be caddies.

    There are still elite clubs that value competitive pros, assistants and teachers who are practically immune from operational duties who play virtually everyday, every week in section events and every pro-am with members…God bless em. Good work if you can get it. I’m in probably the best section for that, but I can tell you we lost 60+% of THOSE jobs during the crash, and still have NOT fully recovered.
    Someone would raise this issue in section meetings about “who actually WORKED as an assistant” rather than a semi-sponsored full time player, and would be routinely shot down by the director or board…

    (no doubt most of whom hoped they might get that gig one day)…

    • …there’s also an entirely different ability to perform in front of the world as opposed to a few hundred people – many of whom you recognize.

      There’s been more than a few guys who couldn’t quite make that transition. ‘Someone I knew’ used to play often with an assistant at one of the nicest toughest courses around and even as a legit +2 would get creamed there, Winged Foot – any of the best tri-state courses they’d get to play as guests.

      The shark in the story won a few pretty notable (not PGA) events and absolutely earned spots in a couple tour events.

      I played with him @ one of the most famed NE courses – with ‘one foot in the rough’ from the blacks where he shot a 63 and crushed us – not 2 weeks before carding 86/NC in the big show…

      I beleive that if he had some kinda ‘Bad Hair Wimberly’ big time sponsor for a year to not do anything but travel, play & practice, he could if absolutely made a fine living on tour

  22. At least you see head to head how a club pro stacks up. Sure, it is a feel good story to let them into the PGA, but they have zero chance. You might as well hand out exemptions to the club pros that sell the most merch or do the most charity work.

  23. Mostly, I would like to know WHY Omar wanted to play in this. A cynic would say he just finally wanted to win ‘something’. I’m not a great golfer, but I can play decently. I can assure you I wouldn’t get any satisfaction at all by beating a beginner in a head-to-head match. And that’s kind of the ability difference this author is pointing to.

  24. Excellent article. This is simply a PGA tour pro taking advantage of the nuanced rules.
    Yes, there are a handful of working club professionals who might occasionally have the game to briefly compete against a seasoned tour pro. These club pros qualify to play the PGA championships each summer. It’s a reward for their dedication and skill to the game and yet they all have full time club duties.
    If a club pro was good enough, committed enough and financially stable to compete in 30 events each season, then they would. You just have to accept that a top 150 touring pro is far ahead of a club pro.

  25. Nowadays club pros are pro shop shirt stackers who hardly play. Things have changed so much since I took the game up in the 80’s. I tell my friends and family to steer clear of the club pros for lessons and to see independent coaches if they want to bring their game to the next level. I wish things were not this way, but I miss the days when the club pros were out every day giving lessons on the tee and playing lessons on the course. The club pros are inside now.

    • Not sure where you are seeing this because I know for a fact that my club pro is very busy. Perhaps this could be true at private country clubs where drumming up business is not the primary or sole responsibility of the pro, but every public course pro I’ve spoken with stays busy. They have far too much to do to keep dollars flowing in and engaging with the local community.

  26. Personally, I’d draw the line this way: If you had status on the PGA Tour or European Tour in the past 5 years or played in 12 or more combined events on the PGA Tour, European Tour, Web.com Tour, or Challenge Tour in any calendar year in the past 3 years, you are not allowed to compete in the CPC. And if you’ve won any event that awards OWGR points in the past ten years, you are ineligible.

    Additionally, CPC competitors must have a legitimate job at a PGA recognized facility or coach collegiate golf.

    I think that’s a pretty simple fix that eliminates most of the problems.

    If a web.com player legit retires from competing and starts folding shirts for five years, then plays, that’s fine.

  27. I agree, I used to be in the golf business and watched a current web.com player dust the rest of us in our State Open. Must have been fun and challenging for him. I think the issue isn’t whether someone used to play on the tour or not, but that they should be employed and meet the minimum hours everyone else is held to. The fact that his only job is working on his game, while everyone else is folding shirts and making tee times makes it feel askew. I agree with the Mike Small argument too, that job doesn’t make sense to me either. He coaches and fund raises for approximately 10 players. I’m not sure how that job is remotely like that of an assistant class A professional who runs junior camps and member-guest tournaments.

  28. This is very similar to professional golfers regaining their amateur status and then competing against amateurs who have full time careers not in golf. The former professional will have dedicated many years to just playing and competing and that is not the same as working 40 hours per week at another job and playing/practicing on weekends and dark evenings. I wonder what Dennis Clark thinks about that.

    • Yes. There are ‘professional’ amateurs and it’s nearly impossible to consistently hang with them. Sounds like Uresti is a ‘professional’ club pro. Same concept. Theroot question is what drives the definition? Status or occupation?

  29. Dennis, I agree with your “complaint” about ex-Tour Players competing against Club Pros. By extension of your argument, Club Pros should not be allowed to play in the PGA Championship unless they qualify as any other player must. It is crazy to allow 20 inferior (according to your own statements) players to compete in one of golf’s four majors.

  30. Have to agree with you on this. Our club pros can strike it good, but just can’t score as good as a full timer. Kind of like top NCAA or Walker Cup players showing up at the Thursday afternoon men’s pickup.

  31. I dont get it, most good club pro players are former mini tour players

    Mike Small played a number of years on the PGA and Web.com tours. He now coaches college players but I am sure he plays a lot of competitive rounds with his players

    If Mike had won instead of Omar would you have written the same article?

    • Exactly. The mid-am tournaments have turned into the “best college players that didn’t turn pro” opens. Hard to compete against guys who basically still play golf for a living while you’re punching a clock 9-5. We all know these cats. They sell insurance, work in “finance”, sell real estate, or are “entrepreneurs.” When really they spend 8 hrs a day at the club wearing penny loafers with no socks and eating every meal from the club kitchen.

  32. Omar is a dues paying member of the PGA of America since 1993. He should be allow to play and am I glad that he is. Congratulations to him.

    Club professional come in multiple sizes. Some work very hard for very little, while others do very little and command much.

    So what should disqualify him? Playing on the PGA Tour. Playing on any professional tour. How about one event?

    You just sound bitter, Dennis.

    If you and other PGA professional are upset, he won. Let me share some advice my pro gave me.
    Just practice harder at your craft and play better.

    Geez!

    Another reason, I dislike the PGA of America and some of its members.

    • a 400 plus pga tournament player and a local club pro are extremely different things, and as the writer says, its not Omar that is in the wrong, its eligibility that needs to and based on alot of the uproar this has caused probably will change. So put the Hater-ade down buds

    • Obviously, you didn’t read very far into it or simply chose to take what you wanted. Dennis makes some very good points and I agree with him that perhaps there are some events where Tour Pros and Club Pros could/should compete against each other, but Club Pros do not have the time to practice like Tour Pros. More importantly, it is indeed a fact that Uresti is not a Club Pro. He holds professional status with the PGA of America, but the two are very different. The vast majority of Club Pros are too busy running a business operation to practice as much as someone like Uresti. It isn’t his fault that he has the means to not work at a club and practice however much he’d like to, but it is wrong for the PGA to allow him to compete against those who are not afforded the same opportunity. How about we just put you on the basketball court with Lebron, Curry, or Durant and see how you fare against them…

      • TR1PTIK: I did read his entire article. Omar is a professional golfer who played on tour and also hold PGA status as a teaching pro. He is playing within the rules set forth by the PGA, so he should be able to play.

        I think it is simple case of jealous and bitterness to write, in my opinion, one side article complaining about. Mr. Clark should bring his concerns and thoughts to the PGA not a public forum in this matter.

        Do you have a problem with a professional who regains his amateur status and competes in amateur tournaments. I don’t. To me, he/she is following the guidelines set forth by the governing organization. They are fine. Fact is they are just a better golfer. Does not mean they are always going to win. Just like Omar has not won National Championship every year.

      • Not really if they are now working as Club Pro’s. He’s only working on his game and nothing else. Even if its written he did nothing wrong, clearly the spirit of the event was tainted, but then again this is golf, a lot is tainted…

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