USGA Announces WAGR exemption modifications for all eight amateur championships
16 Mar 2023
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

The USGA has certainly been busy.

Just a few days after announcing a new model local rule proposal on limiting golf ball distance for high-level professional and amateur events, today the governing body of golf in the United States announced two modifications to the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR® exemption criteria for amateur championships, effective immediately.

The changes are as follows:

1.) Addition of a new WAGR exemption category that is determined at the release of entries.

2.) Moving the determination date of the existing WAGR exemption category for all amateur championships to the Wednesday before the close of entries.

For example, entries for the U.S. Women’s Amateur close on June 14; thus, the top 25 players in WAGR will be determined from the Wednesday, June 7 ranking. The complete list of exempt player numbers and closing dates is shown at the bottom of this page.

The changes are an effort to better help players plan their schedules and notify exempt players of their place in the field in a more timely manner.

But let's be realistic. For most amateur golfers, just getting their name anywhere in the WAGR is an accomplishment.

Let's take one of our longtime members Randy Haag as an example. Being ranked No. 1546 in the world, as Haag is, might not seem like such a big deal. But it actually is when you consider how many tournament golfers there are in the world and that Haag is over age 60.

Randy Haag (randyhaag.com)
When we did a "filter by age" and selected those players 55 and over, things start to look entirely different for the San Francisco Bay Area golfer. Haag was ranked No. 27 among seniors, a far cry better than No. 1546!

Under the USGA's exemption criteria for the U.S. Senior Amateur, Haag would be just two slots away from an exemption one week before the close of entries for the U.S. Senior Am. That puts a huge incentive on playing well enough to improve his position against other top-ranked players who are trying to avoid qualifying.

Does Haag watch the rankings weekly? You bet. And keeping his game sharp enough to record many wins and top finishes over the years has come with the benefit of avoiding 18-hole qualifiers, where one bad hole can take you out of a national championship.

"I have been exempt four times via WAGR," said Haag.

"And also by finishing runner-up in the Senior Amateur, I was awarded an exemption when the USGA Senior Am was at Eugene CC in Oregon."

Haag pointed out that the system is not without its pitfalls. One year while nursing an injury he was forced to withdraw from several events after trying to forge on through pain in the early rounds. Finding out later that he was awarded a last-place finish in each event he withdrew from, his ranking went from 7th to 35th in the drop of a hat. Many other players have noted that, in some cases, there is an incentive not to play in order to maintain a high ranking.

For top players, being told they are exempt into major events so early may also allow them to focus on playing the events they want without such concerns.

Keeping with our senior golf theme, that could include the top-ranked player in the AmateurGolf.com Senior Rankings -- Rusty Strawn. He will be safely in the top 10 among senior men when entries open on March 22. Under the new system, Strawn will be notified by the USGA that he is exempt from the U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying, giving him 100% certainty that he is in the field.

Strawn can book travel, block out his schedule, and even visit the gorgeous Martis Camp Club in Truckee, California to play a few extra practice rounds. That is if the snow ever melts in the Lake Tahoe-area community that has already experienced double their average annual snowfall this year.

“Through our yearly evaluation process of exemptions across our amateur championships, we identified an opportunity that can simultaneously benefit our players while also improving the strength of field of our championships,” said Brent Paladino, senior director of Championship Administration for the USGA.

“These changes ensure that we are giving top amateur players clarity on their exemption status as early as possible and provide exempt players with the time needed to confirm their place in the championship field."

The full list of championships and exemption categories, numbers, and cutoff dates is shown below.

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