Commentary: Giving Amateurs Their Due
09 Dec 2005
see also: The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool Golf Club


Courtesy of The Wire - learn more>

Once upon a time members of the U.S. Walker Cup team received an invitation to the Masters, which was not only a nice gesture from that "little ol' toonamint" in Augusta, Ga., but also proper recognition (initiated by the ultimate amateur, tournament founder Bob Jones) in an age when many amateur players were on nearly equal footing with their professional peers.

Take, for instance, the 1959 squad that made its way to Augusta National Golf Club, which turned out to include quite a sparkling array of talented players. Among them: E. Harvie Ward, Billy Joe Patton and Deane Beman, who, of course, went on to serve as commissioner of the PGA Tour, plus a couple of men who became Masters champions - Tommy Aaron and Jack Nicklaus.

Such recognition today would seem anachronistic in an age when practically every decision in the sports world revolves around earnings, potential earnings or, for those who retain their amateur status beyond one or two significant achievements, potential earnings forfeited. (If we're not talking about what athletes make, we like to talk about what they're not making.) But, perhaps, it's time to consider ancillary perks for the nation's best amateurs.

Here's one idea: award Walker Cuppers a spot in the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. The most recent Q-School results indicate that such a benefit would be warranted. The medalist in the six-day tournament was John B. Holmes, the Kentucky standout and Walker Cup member. Jeff Overton and Nicholas Thompson, teammates of Holmes on this year's winning U.S. team, also made it through the grueling test to earn a Tour card.

Clearly, these guys can play. Why not help them move along a bit faster?

Here's another idea. Grant Walker Cup players seven exemptions on the Nationwide Tour in the first full season after they have been a professional golfer for one year. If they play on more than one team, grant them seven for each tour of duty, if they need it.

While these ideas seem like merely passing out favors for those who already enjoy the honor of playing for their country, they also serve a larger purpose. They might ensure that some of our best players take time to develop by staying amateurs longer. By remaining in the amateur ranks an extra year or two, they might elevate the status of the amateur ranks and return it to a more rightful level in the golf spectrum.

Were he around now, Bobby Jones sure wouldn't have a problem with that.

ABOUT THE The Walker Cup

The Walker Cup Match is a biennial 10-man amateur team competition between the USA and a team composed of players from Great Britain and Ireland and selected by The R&A. It is played over two days with 18 singles matches and eight foursomes (alternate-shot) matches.

The first United States Walker Cup Team, which in 1922 defeated the GB&I side, 8-4, at the National Golf Links of America, is considered among the best teams ever and included Francis Ouimet, Bob Jones, Charles “Chick” Evans and Jess Sweetser. Many of the game’s greatest players have taken part in Walker Cup competition, including U.S. Open champions Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for the USA and Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose for Great Britain and Ireland.

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