Why not be a pro golfer or just a golfer?
I like to think we are moving into the post-COVID time in the US. Since March of 2020, we have all experienced some level of disruption in our lives. For me, it was not seeing my family for almost 3 months solid. It was like living in a cave. It’s been bad in so many ways for so many people and like most terrible events in our lives, we don’t yet know the full scope of it’s impact.
I’m not a Doctor or scientist or an expert on disease or pandemics. I’m just a regular American, living the recently retired life. I have worked 48 years and now I’m ready for the next chapter and hopeful it’s filled with tee times and birdies with friends and family.
I didn’t grow up in well to do family, not a trust fund baby or someone from generational wealth. Both my parents worked, I had 2 brothers and a sister. I started working when I was 9, I started getting paid when I was maybe 14. I registered with SSA and became a card carrying member paying taxes at 16.
I was raised in the rural South, my Grandparents were farmers and worked in the textile mills. My parents were working class and I never knew what I didn’t have until I got older. Like most young people who attend public school, your world expands when you advance through elementary to Junior High and High School. You meet more people, you learn more things and you start to ask questions. At some point, you begin to compare your life style to others.You meet the kid who is wearing new Jordans, or Nike’s, the North Face and Patagonia whose parents pick them up from school everyday in a new or different car.
I have no regrets about the way I was brought up. I learned a lot from my Grandfather who was a farmer. He taught me about work ethic being honest, saying what you mean and meaning what you say and doing your best every day.
When you don’t come from a family with disposable income your awareness is limited. You don’t miss what you don’t know or don’t have. At about the age of 15 we moved into the Steele Creek neighborhood of South Charlotte. It was a nicer neighborhood with a nicer school and kids coming from families with a larger amount of disposable income.
I met kids my age that had mini-bikes, all sorts of sports gear, ten speed bikes, fishing gear and boats, their own bedrooms, families with two or three vehicles taking trips to the beach and the mountains every year.
Then I met some kids that had golf clubs. I had watched it on TV so I knew a little about the game. I knew about Arnold Palmer and Jack Nickalus. I knew they played on courses all over the US and Europe, I knew they made a lot of money doing it.
I have a clear memory of sneaking my Dad’s golf clubs out of the garage over to a camp out with some of my buddies. One of the guys had an older brother who drove us to a rural Charlotte golf course late one night under a full moon and we played golf…for free and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I decided then and there, I liked this game of golf.
Golf is a sport with athletes. While there are many who follow the NFL, NBA and NHL that will challenge this belief there are pro golfers who talk about conditioning, exercise and diet just like any other athlete.
Today, the successful golfer will make a million dollars for winning a single PGA tournament. Many know the name Tiger Woods who wowed the golf world with his entry into professional golf at the young age of 16 in 1992. The PGA professional tour has 30 plus events each season. There are four tournaments that are considered ‘major’ events. Typically the winner will walk away with $2M or more for a win and the second place finisher with $1M or more.
In 2022 an Australian golfer named Cameron Smith won the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach Florida with a purse of $3.6M dollars. By contrast the Masters Tournament which is considered by many to be the most prestigious PGA Major tournament pays $2.7M to the winner.
The more events a PGA golfer plays, the more FedEx points they accumulate. At the end of the season, the top 30 golfers are invited to participate in two tournaments. The winner of the final event last year won the FedEX Cup that paid $15M.
Tiger Woods at age 46 has won the most on the pro tour at $120M. Phil Mickelson at age 51 is next at $95M. The 100th ranked player on the PGA tour earned $19M. This does not include money earned from endorsements or sponsors which can also be in the millions, Tiger Woods has earned $42M from endorsements alone.
There is the Senior Tour where pro golfers age 50 and over compete, Bernard Langer at age 64 won over $3M last year. There is the ladies LPGA Tour where the top winner, 26 year old Ko Jin-young won, $3.5M in 2021. There are pro tours that are considered junior level to the PGA pro tour like the Korn Ferry Tour. This is like the minor leagues of golf and the top earning player for 2021 earned $180K.
What is more amazing is that rarely is there a single player who will win multiple tournaments in a row so there is a new winner nearly every week.
There are players in their late teens and some in their late 40’s who play on the top tour events every year.
Now back to the topic of COVID. Prior to 2020, I read articles about golf retailers going out of business. I read where Dicks Sporting Goods was eliminating their golf club and gear sales at their stores throughout the US.
During COVID, golf experienced new found life. A sport you can play outside, you can join with family, friends or even strangers who sometimes turn into friends. You can social distance, you get great exercise, you enjoy the weather and fresh air, you can play multiple courses and you join with family of all ages, you can play at a public course or join a private club. You can go to the driving range and just hit balls for practice.
An emerging trend called Top Golf has become popular. All of a sudden you see lots of young people of all ages enjoying the game while also enjoying food, beverages and maybe even the NFL as well.
COVID was bad but there has been some good that's come from it. An appreciation of togetherness with family and friends, Zoom and Golf