For an amateur golfer, competing in a professional golf tournament against the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day can be thrilling, scary, and perhaps a bit humbling.
But, believe it or not, actually winning the tournament – while a dream come true – would only award the winner with a trophy to remember the win. That’s right: An amateur golfer would not be awarded the cash prize!
Why not? The United States Golf Association (USGA) prohibits amateur golfers from collecting prize money in golf tournaments.
USGA Rule 3-1
As stated by USGA in Rule 3-1, “Playing for Prize Money,” an amateur golfer cannot play for prize money in a match, competition, or exhibition. It also states that an amateur golfer can play in a golf match, competition, or exhibition where prize money is offered, but the golfer must waive his right to take the prize money.
There is one exception, however: An amateur golfer may accept hole-in-one prize money during the course of a tournament.
USGA Rule 3-2
USGA Rule 3-2, “Prize Money,” states that an amateur golfer is able to accept prize money, or an equivalent retail value, if it’s $750 or less. This applies to tournaments, competitions of all kinds, including skills competitions and longest drive contests. The Committee in charge of the competition is responsible for proving the retail value of a particular prize.
According to Rule 3-1, amateur golfers must waive their right to accept prize money. They are competing for others reasons, which include experience and to help advance their golf careers.
If An Amateur Wins, What Happens To The Prize Money?
It’s not too often that you see an amateur golfer take first place in a PGA Tour event, but in the case of the 1991 Norther Telecom Open a young Phil Mickelson did just that.
The tournament’s first prize earnings were $180,000, however, Phil Mickelson didn’t collect a penny of it. He was still an amateur and a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State University. The money earnings were instead split evenly between the two runners up, professionals Tom Purtzer and Bob Tway, each taking home $144,000.