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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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17 Comments

17 Comments

  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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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Holiday Gift Guide

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Pat and Larry discuss their holiday wish lists talk about the Peloton commercial controversy, discuss how Larry is awful at gambling and do a deep dive into the Presidents Cup as only they can!

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Opinion & Analysis

Leaving golf comics for a higher purpose: Rick Newell, LITT and M.U.S.T.

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Rick Newell drew the best golf comic strip ever. No debate. No competition. The four main characters of Life In The Trap, and the troubles they faced (in both golf and life) mimicked our lives in an eerily-accurate fashion. And then, the strip came to an end. Newell and his wife, living in Seattle, were drawn to a higher purpose. The mentoring of urban youth and teens was too large a challenge to ignore. Think about that for a moment: take on not one child, but hundreds, with one goal—to contribute to society. We caught up with Rick this fall, and he was generous with his time. Total transparency: I made my donation last week. Click the logo before, while, or after, reading the interview, and help MUST make hope a reality.

Ron Montesano: How did LITT start?

Rick Newell: My uncle Jerry, who is a great golfer, gave me the idea way back in college (I turn 50 next year). I thought it was a pretty good idea since the niche would be big enough and there would be a lot of material to go with. Plus it would give me an excuse to play. I took a year off in between my junior and senior years of college and traveled through New Zealand and Australia for nine months. I took my sketchbook with me and worked on the characters as I traveled. When I got back I continued to slowly work on the comic strip and started to see if anyone would publish it. A black and white version of Life in the Trap was picked up by a paper in Florida for a time but it did not last and I stopped making the comic strip.

RM: How big did LITT grow?

RN: In 2002 I had a pretty bad personal meltdown. It was the perfect storm in many ways and things got pretty bad. I even started thinking about taking my own life. As I put my life back together I resolved to do the things that make me feel alive and make me feel awake and to not really care what anyone else thought. Life in the Trap was one of the things that had made me feel alive so I resurrected it. Once I added color and put it on the computer, it took off. I made the website (http://lifeinthetrap.com/) which provided an easy way for editors to preview the comic and it was also an easy way for them to receive the most recent comics for the month.

After the website was up, I started to email editors of magazines, websites and newsletters to see if they would be interested in publishing Life in the Trap. The response was good right away and the circulation rapidly grew. At its peak, Life in the Trap was read by over 1 million people in different golf publications around the world.

RM: Who inspired which characters?

RN: Life in the Trap has four main characters: Duff, Clay, Putts and Rosie. They are all combinations of people I know. Duff is named after my dad but his golf game is more like mine. My dad’s nickname was ‘Duff’ when he was young so the relation to a golf ‘duffer’ was obvious.

Clay is named after the man I was named for. My dad played college basketball with an African American guy named Clayborn Richard Jones. My parents named me Richard and I gave one of my characters the name Clay because of him. The inequities African Americans face have been on my heart since I was young because of whom I was named for. Duff is black in the comic because of Clayborn. Clayborn died of asthma before I was born so I never got to meet him but I have always been proud to bear his name.

My mom’s middle name is Rose, which she hates by the way, so Rosie is named after her. Not named after her because she hates the name but because I thought Rosie sounds like a good character and because I love my mom. I knew one of the characters had to be married because of all of the funny material that would be generated between spouses due to the game of golf.

Putts rounds out the crew. One of the characters had to be pretty bad at golf because so many people would be able to relate to him and and one character had to have a short fuse so I put those into one character. The love/hate relationship with golf defines Putts.

RM: What is your relationship and affinity for golf?

RN: My dad taught me golf so I have him to thank for all of the pain and suffering over the years. Just kidding… sort of. Our local course in Seattle was Jackson Park Golf Course. They have an executive course that we would play together and then we eventually graduated to the main course. I was not the easiest kid to raise, especially through my teens and early 20s, but I have very fond memories of playing golf with my dad on that course. I have never been a great golfer but it has always been a regular part of my life thanks to him.

RM: How can golf serve to make the world a better place?

RN: I read recently that if your household income is $50K or above you are in the top 1% of people on the planet. It might not seem like it to some, but we are a very wealthy nation. The average golfer’s household income is over $100K and there are about 24 million golfers in the U.S. That is a lot of wealth. In my opinion, with all of that wealth should come some responsibility. If every golfer in the U.S. picked a cause they cared about and devoted some time, resources and money to it then golfers could literally reshape the nation. There are so many amazing causes out there. Golfers should pick a cause that lights their fire and get behind it.

RM: What are you doing now?

RN: My background is in technology. I worked at big computer companies like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Cingular. After my meltdown in 2002, I decided that I did not want to be in the IT industry anymore. It certainly did not make me feel alive or awake. Instead I took a job at an inner-city Boys and Girls Club here in Seattle. I worked there for seven years and it changed my life. My dad was a successful doctor so I grew up not needing anything. Working at the Boys and Girls Club showed me first hand what some families have to overcome to just survive, much less succeed.

During my time at the club I came to believe that the most urgent need in the urban core is positive male role models. I felt that if you could provide that it would help the most number of people. There are many complicated reasons for male absence from the family, so if you can help fill that gap moms would get support and kids have opportunities to flourish. The economy would also benefit. So we started a mentoring program called MUST (Mentoring Urban Students and Teens). MUST finds African American guys who are in college and pays them well to mentor African American guys who are genuinely in danger of dropping out of high school. It is a four-year mentoring program. The big idea is that the younger guys watch the older for four years and begin to think, ‘He comes from the same place I do. If he can do it… so can I!” We are now in our eighth year and it is working better than we thought. Youth that we know would have dropped out of high school are attempting college. It is amazing to watch their courage and determination.

The average high school dropout costs the nation $600,000 or more. Great prevention programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters are less expensive but focus on younger kids. Rehabilitation programs like juvenile detention centers are very expensive and do not have a great track record of successful rehabilitation. MUST is a premium intervention program that exists between prevention and rehabilitation. We find kids who are the most vulnerable before they hit high school and give them a lot of support. One of our mottos is that we will support you all the way through high school…no matter what!

RM: How can we help?

RN: Donations are always great but one of our three core values in fundraising is joy. MUST wants the people that partner with us to take joy in helping us out because we are doing good work. There is more than enough money in the world to solve most of its problems. Literally. If you do not find joy in giving to us then there are so many other great organizations out there doing incredible work. Find the organizations that are solving the problems that pull on your heart and get behind them.

The best way to help us is to get on our newsletter list and start to get to know us. We put a lot of effort into our newsletters so current donors and supporters know what their efforts are supporting and see the difference they are helping. Come check us out and see if it would bring you joy to help us out.

The MUST mentoring model is more effective than we thought it would be. Because of its effectiveness we are now researching to see if the model would work in other communities that have high dropout rates. We are currently asking the Latinx community if they think our model might work for their youth. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are also vulnerable youth groups here in Seattle. MUSTs goal is to one day have the MUST mentoring model in every major city in the U.S.

RM: Why did you stop creating LITT?

RN: I stopped because it did not make me feel alive anymore. I was working at the Boys and Girls Club and working other jobs to make ends meet and I just did not have time for it anymore. More than a million people were reading it but because I was giving it away for free, I did not make any money off it. Once it started to be a grind just to produce it, I stopped doing it. It is a great body of work that I am very proud of. I wanted to stop before the work I was proudly producing became compromised.

RM: What would it take to bring LITT back?

RN: We are considering bringing it back. Life is full so we will need to make sure. My wife and I have four sons and MUST obviously takes up a lot of time. We would want Life in the Trap to add to our family and MUST and not take away from it. Our oldest son fell in love with golf last year. He has been basketball, basketball, basketball up until high school and he was pretty good too. However, he joined the high school golf team his freshman year and now he loves it. Obsessed with it really. It might make sense to resurrect Life in the Trap.  MUST is a great cause and if we could get the same numbers of readers looking at Life in the Trap a percentage of them might want to follow MUST and help out. Who knows. Stay tuned to GolfWRX to find out!

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The 19th Hole Episode 103: The one with Scott McCarron

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2019 Schwab Cup winner Scott McCarron talks with host Michael Williams about beating Bernhard Langer and Father Time in his stellar 2019 season (hint: CBD played a role). Also features Part Two of the 19th Hole Holiday Gift guide.

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