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Redress the balance with prize money

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
justin rose

Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez and highlighted the disparity in modern-day earnings between the sport’s haves and the haves-not:

‘I see that Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia have now topped $50 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

No offence to those two guys. They are both great players and it’s fantastic for them that they are reaping the rewards for terrific careers, but it does leave me wondering about the financial imbalance that exists in golf right now.

The elite players these days are on crazy money. They live on another planet in financial terms and it really is beyond my comprehension.

They are earning massive fortunes they can never spend. What can you do with all that cash sitting in your bank account? It’s fantasy money, Monopoly money.

At the other end of the scale, the young golfers playing on the satellite tours are struggling to make a living.

My son Sean, for example, is at Tour school this week. He plays on other mini circuits in China, South America, Canada but it’s tough to make money in those places.

Sean’s entry fee for Tour school is $5,000. He’s done that three or four times in his career so that’s $15,000, $20,000 right there he’s had to try to find.

If you want to qualify for a main tour event, you have to go through a pre-qualifier in order to get a chance to enter qualifying. For both of those stages, Sean has to pay the Tour an entry fee.

And he also has to pay a weekly fee on the other umbrella tours. It’s normally $200 to enter.

The PGA Tour must haul in a fortune from these young fellows who are trying to make their way into the game. The main tour is worth billions of dollars now and I really think it should be doing more to help out the fledgling circuits.

Sean gets a bit of money from his sponsor Farmfoods but he’s flying here, there and everywhere, living in hotels, paying caddies. It’s tough enough to get started with a consistent golf game, without even taking into account the sort of money that’s required simply to compete.

The youngsters on the mini tours are basically putting in their own prize money just to take part. We’ve got one such tournament where I live in West Florida.

Around 50 players compete over two days and it costs $500 to enter. If you’re not in the top 15 at the end of the event, you definitely won’t get your money back. That makes it very hard for those young guys.

The money on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour is so much better, of course. They get $100,000 for a win on that circuit and some players have used that route in order to climb on to the PGA Tour.

The young Norwegian Viktor Hovland did it a different way. He emulated Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler by earning enough money from two or three special invitations to win his tour card.

The opportunities then are fantastic. One victory on the PGA Tour can lead to a spectacular rags to riches story, and we’ve seen that a few times this year.

An unknown player can suddenly emerge from obscurity after entering the winners’ circle. Not only does he pick up a first prize in excess of $1 million, he gains entry to all the four Majors, the World Golf Championship events and secures a two-year exemption on the tour.

But there is a stark difference between the haves and the haves-not and I definitely think it is time to redress the balance.”