July 6, 2001
Hotshot amateur golfers who want to find out how good they really are by playing in the PGA Tour Q-School will be able to retain their amateur status, under new rules adopted by the United States Golf Association.
On January 1, 2002, the USGA’s newest edition of The Rules of Golf will make several changes to the code that divides golfers between the professionals and the rest of us.
The amendments bring the USGA amateur rules closer to revisions made several years ago by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A), the primary golf rule-making body for the rest of the world.
Retaining amateur status is a key requirement for golfers who compete at high levels, such as in the state and national amateur tournaments. The rules prohibit professional compensation such as playing for money, paid product endorsements “because of golf skill or reputation” and, until now at least, trying to make it onto the professional tours.
Amateur golfers may now enter the tour qualifying schools. If they make it past the first two stages of Q-School, to remain officially amateur they must also waive any rights to prize money in the final round.
Under current USGA regulations, college golfers in the U.S. can accept equipment from their colleges. International amateurs playing under the R & A’s rules can be given equipment such as clubs, balls, and shoes directly from manufacturers. The new rules open up this free equipment opportunity to all amateurs, including junior golfers.
Personally, I don’t expect to be contacted by the folks at Titleist, desperate to put their latest driver in my hands. This rules change will primarily benefit golfers with real talent, instead.
On the other hand, the USGA also expanded the possibilities for increases in merchandise or gift certificates for amateurs. Next year golfers can accept special prizes for holes-in-one worth up to $500, in addition to the normal tournament prizes at the same event.
There’s hope yet for the rest of us.
Speaking of holes-in-one, I mentioned in a previous column that I had my first one this spring during the annual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I said I’d tell you about it later.
Here’s what happened.
Our foursome spent a pleasant morning butchering our way through the Heathlands Course at The Legends. As we reached the 130-yard par-3 eighth hole, my own scorecard included one quadruple bogey, 4 double bogeys, and two pars.
I looked downhill from the tee box, and observed the “severe contour at the front of the green” the yardage guide warned us about. I decided to drop back to my pitching wedge because of the change in elevation.
The ball took off nicely, on a line slightly left of the hole location. Then the ball disappeared as it approached the green.
None of us could see it. Since my round was going so well already, my first inclination was to assume that I either stuck it somewhere in the “severe contour” in front, or overshot the green entirely.
We could see the other three golf balls land on or near the green, and we traipsed down the hill to look for mine.
Nothing in the front. Nothing in the back. Nothing on the sides. Finally, I asked one of the other golfers to look in the hole. He stared down, and then looked up with a devilish grin, while pointing at the hole. There it was.
We figured the pitch mark about 6 feet from the hole was probably mine, and agreed it was a shame none of us saw it go in. On the other hand, the best parts of the experience were that I made my first hole-in-one while playing with a group of friends I usually only see during this annual vacation, and that the entire group was genuinely happy for me.
They were also happy about the champagne I paid for that night.