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Is a “Single-A PGA Tour” needed in the United States?

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The road to the PGA Tour is not an easy one to take. Thousands try, only a handful get in, even fewer of the handful stay. However, with the thousands of professional golfers that don’t get in, they need a place to play.

The Web.com Tour has the been the direct feeder and developmental tour for the PGA Tour since 2013. Since its inception in 1990 under the “Ben Hogan Tour” name, there has been multiple variations that slowly evolved into the highly coveted developmental tour we know today. Top 25 finishers in a year long money race get their PGA Tour cards for next season, and 25 more in the playoffs also receive their cards. However, some pros don’t ever make it this far, and there are some that don’t stay long either.

Enter in the third-tier tours of the PGA Tour, that would be PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latin America, and PGA Tour China. Now, each of these three tours operate very similar to the Web.com and the PGA Tour. The same is true with the Web.com, finish high in the money list for the year, move up to the Web.com the next season. With varying statuses, Q-Schools, tournament cuts, and unreal talent across all levels, this system has proven itself to be the best in who can make it on the PGA Tour. However, if you look at the third-tier tours, you come to realize there is no direct route to them besides Q-School and the occasional Monday qualifier. Which comes to to bear the question, is a fourth tier “PGA Tour” needed?

An easy way to look at this is to look at the baseball farming system. Obviously you have the major leagues, but the minor leagues in regards to the major leagues makes the transition to move up as a pro really obvious. From Rookie Ball, to Single-A, Double-A, and finally to Triple-A, the idea of moving up the farm system to get better as a professional to eventually make it to the major leagues is common sense. However, not everyone moves up, some people stay stagnant, and unfortunately some people move down, not everyone can get what they want.

If baseball can have a farm system, why can’t golf? If you want to get technical, we do have one with the various mini tours around the United States that are smaller than the PGA Tour affiliates, but in the grand scheme of things, they just build up your competition skills with no direct way of moving up, and it also doesn’t help the prize money is not high either, but that’s expected at the developmental level.

What if there was a “Single-A” PGA Tour? What if it could feed into PGA Tour China, PGA Tour Canada, and PGA Latin America? Who would play in it? A lot of what ifs and guesses, but here would be my guess on the scenario.

For the PGA Tour to do this, it would need interest in a fourth level to begin with. Who would that level be? I could see scratch golfers, high level amateurs, or even PGA and other club professionals that didn’t quite have the playing resume to play on the higher tours to play in them. They would develop their skills and see how far it would go.

What do you think? Is another tour needed? Is it necessary for the PGA Tour to have a “farm system”? I’m curious to see your thoughts, GolfWRXers.

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  1. Tiger Noods

    Mar 4, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    This makes no sense on its surface. “Single-A” is a development team, subsidised to some degree, and is not out to sell a lot of tickets generally.

    Any sort of fourth tier wouldn’t be profitable. It already sounds like the regional systems generally in place, and is a tester for getting into the third-tier tours outside the US. If you set aside the NCAA, you are essentially looking at some sort of pseudo-amateur thing, and I think that there’s no need to further organise beyond the regionals that already exist.

    The only interesting thing for me would be the “Team Golf” concept, where cities get “franchises”, and you have some interesting content that way.

  2. Morgan

    Mar 4, 2019 at 9:45 am

    The Great Lakes Tour has some in-roads to the PGA Tour Canada and to final qualifying (I think) for the RBC Canadian Open. There are ways to gain some exemptions from other mini-tours to the web.com tour as well.

    The fact that the PGA-TourC, and PGALTA, and PGA China are running at basically full steam now, has provided the A or AA level. There’s not need for a level below that affiliated with the PGA Tour. There’s no advertising money in that. Without Advertising money, there is no purse. Without a purse there are no pros. We see this with local state and provincial tournaments. There are some pros trying to hack it as playing pros and some pros there for the occasional tournament. The view of those pros is that their entry fee is just padding the pockets of the pros that play more often.

    Once you get below the PGA Tour Canada, you’re looking at club professionals.

    Sorry if this is pessimistic, but I’m a realist and below those three tours are guys that are NEVER going to make the PGA Tour.

  3. Joel Thelen

    Mar 4, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I just got home yesterday from PGA Tour China Q school where I finished 22nd and got some status, I also played PGA Tour Canada in 2015-2016, and I Monday’d into 3 Web.com Tour events in 2018 with a best finish of 14 under par, 34th place in Springfield, MO. So I have definitely thought about this idea! One barrier is that one country can’t have more than 3 tours with world ranking points (PGA, Champions, Web). But what you see if you look at tier 3 is how many Americans are traveling outside the country to try and get on the American owned PGA Tour and playing for very little money. Look at the Aruba Cup (Ryder cup between PGA Tour Canada & Latin America), it’s guys from Texas, California, Florida, Etc. leading both Tours.

    The challenge is that there are only so many spots in the fields. PGA Tour fields are mostly 144 players, and 125 guys each year make the playoffs. So there aren’t many PGA Tour players losing their status every year. The PGA Tour has arranged the system to reduce turnover, and bring in more international fields. Which I understand helps with marketing for sure. As long as the formula is how it is, what would guys in tier 4 play for? A couple spots on tier 3 tours?

    I’m a fan of capitalism, not socialism. But I would love to see the money being paid out more equivalent to the level of play. The PGA Tour purses these days are astounding how big they are, and not one person on the planet believes PGA Tour players are 10x better than Web.com, but they play for 10x the money. Just doing simple math, each tier plays about 40 tournaments per season (a little less on the Web.com). But if all 3 play one week there is ($7,000,000+$700,000+$220,000=$7,920,000 being paid out). I think the money should be closer to

    Tier 1: $5,000,000
    Tier 2: $2,000,000
    Tier 3: $790,000

    While giving PGA Tour players a 30% pay cut, you almost triple Web.com earnings, and over triple Tier 3 earnings. Clearly guys will still want to be on the PGA Tour! But at least the other guys can pay their caddies and start a family. This will only make more kids want to play pro golf and in my opinion, be better for growing the game.

  4. Pro

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    What needs to change, Chris, is an entire paradigm shift in America’s educational and cultural attitudes towards teenagers.
    Why can’t teenagers just turn Pro in anything they’re good at doing, if that’s what they want? Why do you take the choice away from them? It teaches them personal responsibility to own their choice that they make, if they want to become a Pro as a teenager in high school. Why is there such a stigma with that in the US? Why do people have to go to college before their life gets started?
    If they want to be a Pro before college, let them!

  5. JP

    Mar 3, 2019 at 11:51 am

    If you aren’t going to make it, you aren’t going to make it. There is no need to give golfers of every skill level a tour. What’s next? Grandfathers mini tour for those 65+ year olds that think they should make it on tour, but now lack the physical ability to compete at the PGA tour level?
    .
    Is it at the point we need to award everybody participation trophies for trying?

  6. John

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:25 am

    No this feels like heading the participation trophy route. Get through q school, Monday qualify, or leave your family and friends and earn it in Canada or the Latin American tour.

  7. The dude

    Mar 3, 2019 at 3:48 am

    This article is cringeworthy….

  8. A. Commoner

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    How can one write an article like this while ignoring the incredible expansion of intercollegiate athletics over past several decades? These programs might be thought of as a filtering (farm) system whereby those deserving to advance do so. Like it or not, there is a ‘sorting out’ process in operation throughout life in all aspects of life. Many are called; few are chosen. Accept it and live with it.

  9. Phil D. Snuts

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    Why does it need anything? The cream rises to the top regardless of how many minor leagues a particular sport has.

  10. Hawkeye77

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Ask the question but provide absolutely no analysis of how it could even work, and of course it would not. PGA Tour already invested and subsidizing what it thinks is necessary, pretty smart outfit – who does this “4th Tier”? When do they play? Where? WHY?

    Do we need more pro golfers? You aren’t good enough to make it on Tour or make a living as it stands playing golf, why subsidize a lower level of golf? Who isn’t making it that “should”?

    Golf has a “farm system” it’s called mini-Tours and other Tours and there are plenty of opportunities if you are truly talented. If not, no reason to guarantee some standard of living to people that should probably be doing something else. You’ll just have more people chasing that “scrape by” dream at yet another level lower.

  11. ChipNRun

    Mar 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Chris,

    You have an interesting idea but don’t link it to a business model. Some considerations…

    * Where will you get the sponsorships for the tournaments? Can the PGA Tour find enough slack marketing desire among corporations to pay for the tournaments? Consider the MacKenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada). MacKenzie evidently has 12 events last year. The 2018 top player was Tyler McCumber – 11 events, $139,000 total with three wins. Only one other player crossed the $100,000 mark. So how much of a purse can you guarantee for your Single A tour? And, what does a Single A win count toward a PGA Tour slot?

    * What about regional PGA events? Can up-and-coming non-traditional tour pro hopefuls play in these and score some points toward entering the current mini-tours?

    * You lament the demise of the Q-School, but it’s still here. It just moved down a notch to the mini-gours. PGA Tour Canada has a Q-School tourney, and PGA Tour Latino American has a qualifying tournament.

    * You imply but do not state that lots of people could make the pro tour if the only got “another chance.” Happy Gilmore and Augie Baccus (The Squeeze) are entertaining movie characters, but in real life their chances of breaking through to the PGA Tour are very slim. If they can’t advance through the mini-tours to Web.com, I doubt that a Single A tour would increase their chances that much.

    * Your Single A Tour would be the equivalent of Fantasy Football… except the players to out to a real golf course rather than fuming over the computer screen.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      Hi ChipNRun,

      So the original idea for the article is a hypothetical, would I want to see a Single-A PGA Tour in the United States. Yes. Would I want to run it myself with the ideas mentioned in the blog, not really. It’s more of a question to the Golfwrx community of could you see it working or not, and you are asking the right questions above, in which I do appreciate the deep thought in this, thanks for reading!

  12. Q

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Terrible comparison to baseball.
    Teams don’t get relegated nor promoted in baseball like the players do in golf, like soccer teams do in Europe or around the world. That’s the problem with Major sports in the US, so this argument is backwards.
    The Major sports in US needs to change its system where the leagues have promotion and relegation.
    The golf system is fine. Except for the bit where they removed the Q-school. By elimination Q-school direct entry into the top flight, the PGA made it almost like the other major sports in America, into the Elitist system that it wanted it to be.
    At least golf has its promotion-relegation system. And it has to.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:13 pm

      Q,

      I like this point you mentioned above, personally I think the system is fine as well, but I am curious to see would you want to actually see it work or would it just be a complete failure due to your said points? Thanks for reading!

  13. Peter

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:39 am

    The difference between golf and baseball is that the scouts in the big leagues are evaluating different positions and wide array of specialized talent. It doesn’t work like that in golf. It’s all about your score. When it comes to prize money, Web.com players can barely scrape by a living, let alone people on the smaller tours. Bottom line is that if the PGA thinks they can make money from sponsors and media by putting this together, they’d do it.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Chez wins the Travelers with his own swing and holiday golf is approaching!

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Chez wins the Travelers Championship with a swing that Steve is unsure of. Talking about the Rocket Mortgage and when Knudson is going down to watch. Look out, it is holiday golf and 5.5-hour rounds are the norm!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the Travelers Championship

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Chez Reavie captured the second PGA Tour title of his career, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at the Travelers Championship.

Hot

Chez Reavie held off the challenge of Keegan Bradley to win his first title on the PGA Tour in over a decade, and the American’s irons were critical to his success. Reavie led the field for strokes gained: approaching the green in Connecticut, gaining 6.4 strokes over the field in this area. Check out the clubs Reavie used on his way to victory in our WITB piece here.

Jason Day returned to form last week, and the Australian excelled with his iron play for the four days of action. The 31-year-old has had issues with his ballstriking recently, but at the Travelers, Day gained 6.4 strokes over the field for his approach play – his best performance in this department since the 2016 PGA Championship.

Keegan Bradley’s putter has often been a thorn in the 33-year-old’s side, but last week in Connecticut it served him beautifully. Bradley led the field in strokes gained: putting at the Travelers, gaining a total of 9.8 strokes with the flat-stick. It snaps a streak of 11 straight events where Bradley had lost strokes on the green.

Cold

Jordan Spieth continues to struggle, and once again, the issue revolves around his long game. The Texan lost a combined total of 4.3 strokes off the tee and with his approaches at the Travelers – his worst total in this area since The Players.

Justin Thomas showed plenty of positive signs last week, with the second highest strokes gained: tee to green total in the field. However, Thomas’ putter was stone cold, and the 26-year-old lost a mammoth 7.8 strokes to the field on the greens. That number represents his worst performance of his career with the flat-stick, and Thomas has now lost strokes to the field on the greens in his last seven successive events.

Brooks Koepka struggled on his way to a T57 finish last week, with the 29-year-old losing strokes to the field off the tee, with his irons and on the green. It is the first time that Koepka has lost strokes in each of these three areas in a single event since the 2018 Tournament of Champions.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The best golf club innovations?

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Being in the golf equipment industry for nearly 40 years, I have paid close attention to the evolution of golf equipment over its modern history. While I’ve never gotten into the collecting side of golf equipment, I have accumulated a few dozen clubs that represent some of the evolution and revolution in various categories. As a club designer myself, I ponder developments and changes to the way clubs are designed to try to understand what the goals a designer might have had and how well he achieved those goals.

Thinking about this innovation or that got me pondering my own list of the most impactful innovations in equipment over my lifetime (the past 60 years or so). I want to offer this analysis up to all of you for review, critique, and argument.

Woods: I would have to say that the two that made the most impact on the way the game is played is the introduction of the modern metal wood by TaylorMade back in the 1980s, and the advent of the oversized wood with the Callaway Big Bertha in the 1990s. Since then, the category has been more about evolution than revolution, to me at least.

Irons: Here again, I think there are two major innovations that have improved the playability of irons for recreational golfers. The first is the introduction of the numbered and matched set, a concept pioneered by Bobby Jones and Spalding in the 1930s. This introduced the concept of buying a “set” of irons, rather than picking them up individually. The second would be the introduction of perimeter weighting, which made the lower lofted irons so much easier for less skilled golfers to get airborne. (But I do believe the steadfast adherence to the concept of a “matched” set has had a negative effect on all golfers’ proficiency with the higher-lofted irons)

Putters: This is probably the most design-intense and diverse category in the entire equipment industry. History has showed us thousands of designs and looks in the endless pursuit of that magic wand. But to me, the most impactful innovation has to be the Ping Anser putter, which has been…and still is…copied by nearly every company that even thought about being in the putter business. Moving the shaft toward the center of the head, at the same time green speeds were increasing and technique was moving toward a more arms-and-shoulders method, changed the face of putting forever. I actually cannot think of another innovation of that scale in any category.

Wedges: Very simply, I’ll “take the fifth” here. To me, this is a category still waiting for the revolutionary concept to bring better wedge play to the masses. The “wedges” on the racks today are strikingly similar to those in my collection dating back to a hickory-shafted Hillerich and Bradsby LoSkore model from the late 1930s, a Spalding Dynamiter from the 50s, a Wilson DynaPower from the 70s,  and so on.

Shafts: Hands down, to me the most impactful innovation is the creation of the carbon fiber, or graphite, shaft. After fruitless ventures into aluminum and fiberglass, this direction has improved the performance of golf clubs across the board. You haven’t seen a steel-shafted driver in two decades or more, and irons are rapidly being converted. Personally, I don’t see me ever playing a steel shaft again in any club – even my putter! But beyond that, I’d have to say the concepts of frequency-matching and “spine-ing” shafts made it possible to achieve near perfection in building golf clubs for any golfer.

Wild card: This has to go to the invention of the hybrid. After decades of trying to find a way to make clubs of 18-24 degrees easier to master, Sonartec and Adams finally figured this out. And golfers of all skill levels are benefitting, as this is just a better way to get optimum performance out of clubs of that loft and length.

So, there’s my review from a lifetime of golf club engineering. What can you all add to this? What do you think I missed? I hope to see lots of conversation on this one…

 

*featured image via Ping

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