Amateur Vs Professional Status: The In’s and Out’s of Amateurism in Collegiate Golf
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Golfing at the collegiate level here in North America is a goal of thousands of student athletes. Whether it be here in Canada at the USPORT or CCAA level or in the United States at the NCAA, NAIA, or NJCAA level, playing collegiate golf is a fantastic accomplishment and a dream of so many. While you need the scores and the grades just like any other sport to play at these levels, one other rule that is unique to collegiate golf that tends to get confusing is the amateur status rule. On this installment of THE BLOG, we will be taking a look at amateurism and the rules around tournament golf and keeping your eligibility.
The first thing we need to clarify is what is meant by the term “amateur.” As noted by the USGA and Golf Canada, a golfer is an amateur unless they:
- Accept a prize that is not allowed under Rule 3: Prizes,
- Play in a golf competition as a professional,
- Accept payment or compensation for giving instruction that is not allowed under Rule 4: Instruction,
- Are employed (including being self-employed) as a golf club or driving range professional, or
- Hold membership of an association for professional golfers.
For most student athletes looking to golf at the collegiate level, the rule that causes the most concern revolves around accepting prize money or prizes at events. As stated by the USGA and Golf Canada, below is a breakdown of what the major governing bodies deem as legal and illegal in terms of prize winnings.
An amateur playing in a scratch competition is allowed to accept any prize, including prize money, up to a limit of $1200 CAD in value, per competition, unless the national governing body has set a lower limit. For the purposes of these Rules, a scratch competition is a competition that does not have a net score element in any part of the competition and handicaps must not be used to separate players into different scratch categories. Any competition that is not a scratch competition is a handicap competition.
An amateur playing in a handicap competition is not allowed to accept prize money but may accept any other prize up to a limit of $1200 CAD in value, per competition, unless the national governing body has set a lower limit.
For a non-monetary prize, the value of that prize is the price at which the item is generally available to purchase from a retail source at the time the prize is accepted. The prize limit applies to the following:
- Any tee-to-hole golf competition involving a score for a hole, regardless of where that competition is played (for example, on a golf course or a golf simulator).
- Any skills competition where the shot is played during a tee-to-hole golf competition.
- The total prizes accepted in a single competition or multiple competitions being conducted at the same time (for example, individual and team competitions). The prize limit does not apply to the following: • The value of trophies and other similar prizes.
- Long drive competitions, target competitions, competitions involving specific skills, trick shots and competitions that solely involve putting (unless the competition or shot is played during a tee-to-hole golf competition).
- A prize for a hole-in-one made:
- Outside a tee-to-hole golf competition or
- During a tee-to-hole golf competition, provided the length of the shot is at least fifty yards.
- Gambling or wagering among individual golfers or teams of golfers.
- Expenses to compete in a subsequent stage of the same competition.
While these rules are outlined by the USGA and Golf Canada, additionally, the NCAA has its own rules around amateurism and what it will allow its athletes to accept in order to keep their eligibility. They are as follows:
Accept a prize or award (such as merchandise, or a gift certificate or gift card) up to $750 in retail value for each competition
Accept a symbolic prize (such as an engraved trophy made of gold or silver), even if its value exceeds $750
Play in an event offering cash prizes if you enter as an amateur golfer or otherwise indicate prior to playing that you will not accept any prize money
Accept free product or gifts (such as golf balls or shirts) when such products or gifts are offered to everyone playing in that competition
Accept a non-cash prize exceeding $750 (such as a car or trip) for making a hole-in-one during a round of golf
Play for a cash prize in any competition, even if you do not play well enough to earn a cash prize
Accept a prize or award (such as a watch, golf clubs or merchandise) that exceeds $750 in retail value (this limit does not apply to symbolic prizes, like trophies)
Sell merchandise won as a prize in a golf competition
Accept a cash prize for making a hole-in-one during a round of golf
Keeping your amateur status as a golfer is vital to stay eligible to compete at the collegiate level here in Canada or in the United States. The rules may seem confusing or overwhelming at times, so it is best to always clarify with your coach, tournament organizers or even contact the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, USPORTS or CCAA directly to make sure you are ok. What may seem like a simple prize to you can impact your future heavily.