Hole In One Prizes and Their Effect On Amateur Status
In the past, there existed a select few golfers who for a common reason would be forced to decline accepting a glamorous hole in one prize. Each of these golfers made this surprising decision for one reason and one reason alone: to retain their status as amateurs. Now, many of us might balk at the idea of turning down a $10,000 cash prize or brand-new automobile simply for a seeming trivial designation, but to some golfers, the amateur distinction is actually quite important.
The reason some golfers wished to remain as amateurs in the eyes of the USGA was to retain the opportunity to compete in amateur-only tournaments. The U.S. Amateur, the Public Links, the Junior Amateur, state & local championships, and high school or collegiate golf: in the past, accepting a hole in one prize meant not competing in any of these treasured events. What, you may ask, do hole in one prizes have to do with a golfer's amateur status? Well, the answer lay buried in the Rules of Golf, the USGA's bible governing the game. Previously, any golfer who accepted money or prizes valued above $750 would lose their amateur distinction and thus be considered a professional. But wait, you ask, aren't only golfers like Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus professionals? Well, yes, they most certainly are as they accept prize money for participating in events on the PGA Tour. However, many other people are professionals too. Club pros are technically professional golfers. So too is anyone who charges for golf lessons. None of these golfers were eligible to participate in amateur events. Until a short time ago, so too was anyone who accepted a valuable hole in one prize.
However, recently, the USGA decided to amend the rules. Seeing the folly in declaring people professionals simply for accepting hole in one prizes, they made a change. Today, any golfer can accept any hole in one prize of any value and still retain their amateur distinction. Cars, boats, cash, whatever. If it is a prize awarded for successfully making a hole in one during a round of golf, you are still an amateur.