Question: I have a 24-year-old son who is a very good golfer and aspires to play on the PGA Tour. To work on his game, he is considering taking a job as an assistant pro, and when he feels he's ready, he intends to give it a shot. My question is, when the time comes, what steps does he take to become a member of the Tour? -- M.H., Naples, Fla.
Answer: If he takes a job as an assistant pro, he's already taking the wrong step.
An assistant pro is in training to become a club professional. His job is to organize and run the daily operations of his club, for the enjoyment of the players. A touring professional, on the other hand, plays golf for money. You're talking about two, totally different professions, although they're often confused. Being a touring professional, in no way, qualifies you to be a club professional, and vice versa.
There are several ways to become a PGA Touring Professional.
Finish in the top 35 of the annual Qualifying School. Thousands enter and pay the $4,000 entry fee. Only 35 survive.
Win a PGA Tour event. Good luck.
Through sponsor exemptions, foreign exemptions, open or section qualifying, finish in the top 150 players on the official money list. An example of this is Spain's Sergio Garcia.
Finish in the top 15 on the official Buy.com Tour money list. To get on the Buy.com Tour, you must finish in the top 85 of the same annual qualifying school as above. The top 35 get their PGA Tour cards. The next 50 get their Buy.com cards.
There are a couple other ways to play, although not as a member of the two Tours. On Monday, preceding every PGA Tour event, there is an open qualifying round. The four low scorers can play in that week's event. This qualifier is open to all professionals and amateurs with a USGA handicap of 2 or less. Most likely, touring professionals who have lost their exemptions fill these spots.
There is also a weekly qualifier for PGA members in the area where that week's tournament is being played. The two low scorers in that qualifier also gain entry into that event. These spots are also usually filled by non-exempt touring professionals who are also PGA members.
This qualifier is the best shot for a club professional to play in a Tour event. It's really tough, however, for a club professional to compete at that level, although some of the really good playing club professionals have done it.
My advice is to get an education first, so you will always have a profession on which to fall back in case things don't work out. Don't waste your time getting a job as an assistant at a club. It's not fair to your employer to train you for a profession you have no intention of pursuing.
Next, you have to have the financial backing to be able to play golf competitively full time. There are smaller tours around the country that serve as good training grounds for future players. You learn not only how to play competitive golf, but also how to adjust to that way of life. If suitcases, airplanes, rental cars and hotels are not your bag, find another profession.
Have a question? Mail it to Jon Ebert, 3350 Pine Ridge Road, Naples, FL 34109; fax it to (941) 649-0500; or e-mail it to Jon@ebertgolf.com.