Can I become a professional golfer?
March 28, 2006 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Can I become a professional golfer? Or is it just to late for me?

Though I've been golfing for about 20 years (and I'll be 29 next month), I'm still pretty much a hack. I have a decent swing, but don't even have a handicap and probably average over 100 when I play golf, which doesn't even happen very often. My lowest round is in the 80s.

HOWEVER, I believe w/ hard work, proper instruction, and more hard work, I could become a professional golfer. I'm not talking about becoming Tiger Woods here, but just earning enough to make a decent living. It seems like there are plenty of tours and mini-tours out there these days.

Do you agree or disagree w/ this assessment? Is it just too late for me, or is it still possible?

I know of at least one person that did not seriously pick up the game until relatively late in life -- Calvin Peete, who was 23? Do you know of other examples like Peete?
posted by gregoryc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't know of any others, but then if they are playing mini-tours, grinders, etc., they wouldn't exactly be household names. I believe Paul Azinger didn't make his high school golf team.

So you are looking to simply play in tournaments where you can win actual cash? Work as a club professional and play tours on the side? There's a pretty intense apprenticeship and workload to be a club pro, but if you're just looking to play in tourneys for money, all you've gotta do is be able to shoot some low scores.

The first step is to find a pro to give you lessons. The FIRST thing that he should do is measure you and your equipment. Length, loft, and especially lie can all cause serious problems to an otherwise sound swing if they are off.

IF you have never broken 80, and you're looking to score in the 60's, you're probably looking at some pretty radical changes to your swing. Rebuilding your swing is almost tougher than learning it from scratch, because you have to unlearn the bad habits while learning the new, correct muscle memory.

Spend a lot of time around the practice green. LIke, 2/3 of your practice time (half of that putting). For as far as Tiger hits it, he makes a ton of putts. I heard (I think it was) Johnny Miller say the other day he thought Tiger was the best clutch putter ever.

I don't think it's impossible, but it would definitely take a lot of work (a lot of mental toughness as well as physical work). Golfers tend to hit their peak later than other sports (mid to late thirties) so you aren't past your golfing prime.

Truthfully, though, most of the mini-tours and sectionals do not pay well enough for an even "decent" wage. people go there as a step to the next level, not to make a living, so know that going in.

I'd also suggest to start plaing in local/state amateur events. Here in AZ it's really competitive, with a lot of the University team players playing, so that's a good start as far as tough competition. Don't know how competitive the scene is in VA.
posted by scottymacten at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2006

I think you should first focus on training and entering local tournaments and see how that goes before embarking on a goal of becoming a professional. Because it's a long, hard road.

You need to define for yourself what "make a decent living" playing "tours and mini-tours" means. Take a look at the money leaders for the Nationwide Tour. This is the highest level pro tour that's not the PGA. These guys are not exactly raking in the dough, considering that they have to pay their own costs (travel, training) and very few of them have significant sponsorship.
posted by frogan at 10:21 AM on March 28, 2006

Larry Nelson never played until he was 21. He won three majors. But he was shooting in the 90's on his first attempts, and soon in the 70's.

I was a member of the same course as Mike Weir, who is now a member of the PGA Tour, who has won the Masters, when he first began golfing at about 11 or 12. I remember my brother pointing out this little kid with plenty of natural talent. Still, he had to beat the odds every step along the way, through his amateur and college career, through minor tours, through qualifying and establishing himself on the tour.

If you're shooting over 100 now, you have little chance of winning at trophy at your local club, even if you do nothing but golf from this day on. But it's the thought that with enough dedication you too can strike it like the pros that keeps most of the people on the course coming back.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2006

If you want to make a serious run at it, I'd look at buying a house on a golf course, somewhere on the front nine.

That way you get daily access to nine full holes, plus practice putting on a wide variety of greens.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:37 AM on March 28, 2006

(and yes, you can get access just by being a member somewhere, but living on the course would give you a lot more practice time, since it would remove the commute.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2006

I think buying a house on the course is a bit extreme- and incredibly expensive. You do that if you've got money to burn, or if you're already an established pro, not as a way of learning.

Can you turn pro? Sure, it's possible- it's an odd question since golf more than any other sport allows for longevity and age. If you were talking about pro baseball, it'd be a different story.

I have a friend, let's call him Kevin, who is a former MS-er and is about 35. He wants to be a pro player, and has been playing for quite a few years. He doesn't do anything fancy, but spends a lot of time at the range practicing the fundamentals and has worked with coaches in the past for refinements of his swing and his game. I believe his typical score is high 70's, so not good enough to do anything with. But if he shaves a stroke off here and there, he might someday get a tour card or play in a few opens. And from him telling it, even the bottom of the barrel guys, the ones allegedly bumped by Michelle Wie when she gets an exemption, aren't even PGA pros if they're not earning in the low six figures. However, those BotB guys also turn over a lot- it's very hard to keep getting your tour card year in and out without being considerably more successful than even the top of the Nationwide list, Paul Sheehan (see frogan's list). They really do make their livings as club pros, with the occasional year of qualifying for the pro tour if they're lucky and making some serious dough, and most of the time playing in Nationwide tours to make much less money where they pay their own way and don't have sponsors.

So yes, there's nothing in your age that prevents success on a modest level, where your principal income can be your golf game. Kevin he has told me himself that those last few strokes off your game are the hardest- that's what makes being a pro so hard. But that's mostly an element of work and focus, and it's the raw talent that you'd have to have to become a PGA tour regular. There's no reason that with commitment, though, you can't make a living in golf as a club pro/teacher/occasional tour participant with practice. It's not your age that will likely prevent you from someday finding yourself in an afternoon twosome at Augusta.
posted by hincandenza at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2006

Best answer: Don't dare approach this with an attitude that you will be disappointed if you don't acheive this goal. Certainly, aiming high is a good attitude to have in whatever you try, but the deck is very seriously stacked against you here. Work hard to achieve your goal, but if the joy isn't in the journey the journey is not worth it.

I've played since I was 10, have a ton of natural talent, and have never been able to get below a 6 handicap. Keep in mind that a 0 handicap still isn't enough to earn a PGA tour card.

Being a club pro is a different matter. You can do that with a single digit handicap, but your job is quite a bit different than a touring pro, and I'm guessing you are not considering being a club pro as achieving your goal.

One other thought to mention: golf in competition is a different game entirely than going out for a round with pals. You may actually find out that you hate it. Serious stroke play tournaments have about as much draw to me as going to the dentist.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:55 PM on March 28, 2006

I have a friend who plays on the Hooters Tour, Nationwide Tour and Asian Tour. He's won a couple events, but I would say that he is breaking even at best. He has a couple of sponsors and he lives at home, but it's a tough gig.

On the other hand, a former co-worker qualified for the Sr. U.S. Open, so you have many years to qualify as a pro.
posted by Frank Grimes at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2006

20 years and you don't break 100? Forget it man. Never gonna happen. Enjoy the game with your friends.
posted by JamesMessick at 2:47 PM on March 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's input. In didn't get as many "20 years and you don't break 100? Forget it man. Never gonna happen. Enjoy the game with your friends." responses as I thought I would (though that's probably closest to the truth!). I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. Thanks for you help.
posted by gregoryc at 1:47 PM on April 19, 2006

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