The path to the PGA TOUR

As we started to write about golf and cover the this summer we found ourselves asking a lot of questions about how a player makes it to the PGA TOUR.  There are guys like Jordan Spieth who turned pro in college and never had to step foot on the tour (through exemptions and top placings). But for the majority of guys it’s a long and tough road to getting a tour card. We all have our favorite guys on tour that we see finish in the top 20 week in and week out (many of who are Alums). But when you take a closer look at what a grind it is for some of the other players, you really gain an appreciation for the sport. Let me show you what I mean:

There are more than 80 million people in the world playing the game of golf. There is no doubt the game is on the rise especially among the youth thanks to guys like Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas etc.  But it is on the rise everywhere with new markets like China and South America booming. We can expect those numbers to rise even higher in the near future. #GrowTheGame

Obviously, we all know that the Tour is owned and operated by the PGA TOUR. But how does a player get to the Tour? How do you turn pro? Where do these guys start? And what does it take?

First of all it takes a lot of money and skill to turn pro. Now a days it’s virtually impossible for amateurs to turn professional without having a financial backing for travel etc. or some kind of sponsorship deal. But for those few golfers whose skill ranks on a professional level (and for this posts’ purpose), there are 3 ways to move closer to the PGA TOUR. Through seasons with PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, the Mackenzie Tour and the PGA TOUR China, you can secure a Tour card. Or you can take your chances at Tour Q School, which used to be one of the only ways to turn pro. From 1965 to 2012 most guys had to make their way through 4 grueling stages of golf that took place from September to December. Now Tour Q School is a four-round event. But since 2013, all 50 TOUR cards now flow through the Tour, making it THE Path to the PGA TOUR.  To put things in perspective:

  • Of the 212 member of the Mackenzie Tour only 5 advance to the Tour
  • Of the 171 member of the PGATOUR China only 5 advance to the Tour
  • Of the 1200 applicants to Q School only 144 advance to the Tour
  • Of the 280 member of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica only 5 advance to the Tour

The 5 leading money winners from PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, Mackenzie Tour, PGA TOUR China will also earn a spot on the Tour.

Once you have made it to the Tour the grind REALLY begins. The qualifying system is intricate but I’ll do my best to break it down. The field is comprised of the PGA TOUR players who missed the FedEx Cup playoffs (which means they rank 126-200 in FedEx Cup points) plus the top 75 money winners on the Tour at the end of the regular season.  The 25 leading money winners on the Tour will be guaranteed cards at the end of the regular season. Another 25 cards will go to those players who earn the most cumulative money in the Finals events. The Tour’s leading money winner using combined Regular Season and Finals earnings will be fully exempt. And the player who earns the most money during the four Tour Finals will be fully exempt.  As an added bonus both earn invites to THE PLAYERS  Championship.

Tough, right? There is no doubt that the Tour produces PGA TOUR ready players. And here are a few facts to support that:

  • 3 out of 4 PGA TOUR members played on the Tour.
  • More than 400 PGA TOUR titles have been won by former Tour alums
  • Tour players have won 23 major championships, most recently Justin Thomas at the 2017 PGA Championship.

But, like I mentioned before there are other ways to make it to the PGA TOUR. For example, Brooks Koepka chose a different route than other collegiate golfers chasing their PGA TOUR dream. While an amateur at Florida State he qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open and decided to turn professional. He then started his career on the European Challenge Tour, improving to the European Tour, achieving top 10 in the world, and ultimately became the 2017 U.S. Open Champion.  Similarly, Peter Uihlien, son of Wally – the president and CEO of Acushnet which is the parent company of Titleist, favored the international circuits. He posted 5 top ten finishes which earned him a spot on the Tour finals this year and made him the highest ranking player in the World Golf Rankings in the finals.  And in front of our eyes in Columbus, Ohio, Uihlein captured the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship to secure his PGA Tour card for 2018.

Earning your card is tough but keeping it is tougher. Take a look at Ben Crane (one of the members of the “Golf Boys”) who is an alum of the Buy.Com Tour which eventually evolved into the Tour. He earned his PGA TOUR card in 2002 and has been a top competitor for years.  He has 8 professional wins and finished T-17 in the 2012 Masters.  This year he finished outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points and failed to regain his card through the Tour Finals. He will earn a few sponsored exemptions on the PGA TOUR in 2018 but its back to the grind for the 41 year old.

So if that didn’t give you an idea of how hard it is to become a member of the PGA TOUR then think of it like this: Of the 80-something million players in the world, 245 play the TOUR. That means you have a 1 in 326,000 chance of seeing your name on a TOUR leaderboard, or about .0003 percent. Bottom line, these guys are good. Respect the grind.


All statistics came from


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