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Tuesday
Apr182017

USA Walker Cup To No Longer Require Two Mid-Ams

While there was a backlash from some over-25-year-olds, the USGA's abandonment of two automatic mid-amateur Walker Cup team slots will actually turn out to be a positive for the mid-am world. Bear with me geezers before you angrily comment.

Jim Nugent revealed in Global Golf Post that the automatic two-spots--another lousy idea from the lousy Tom O'Toole USGA days--will be abandoned.

There is some irony in yet another impeccably-timed USGA move (given that 26-year-old Stewart Hagestad was low amateur at the Masters and may be America's top amateur right now).

Given the depleted college ranks this year, the 2017 team has a chance to see at least two mid-ams without the requirement. Or maybe more.

While the concept was probably well-intentioned it should never have been enacted and remained an unwritten rule. That didn't stop some mid-ams from complaining. From Ryan Lavner's GolfChannel.com  assessment:

That prompted passionate responses on social media from 2015 Walker Cupper Scott Harvey, who tweeted that it was “very, very sad” for mid-ams, and fellow mid-am Patrick Christovich, who said that the “USGA is probably a big fan of the One-and-done college basketball rule too…Support the ‘Real Amateurs’ and the game will grow.”

While I get that reaction, ultimately the requirement suggested that mid-ams needed help making the team. But without that crutch the mid-amateurs who make the team will actually receive even more respect. They will stand out less as recipients of a special exemption, and fit in more naturally as U.S. Walker Cup team members.

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Reader Comments (38)

Geoff

In Boston parlance, you are "wicked" all wet on this one, Geoff.

The key faulty premise that you are glomming onto is that the US is is "drop-dead" need of a victory every two years in order to legitimize the Walker Cup. Why? Just because? How about we flip this over and make it an argument about deservedness and not about "crutches".

True amateurs deserve to be on the team in some significant fashion. The "journey" of amateur golf flows from youth through old age - it doesn't begin and end with those in, or barely out of, the AJGA ranks. Even accouting for the challenge associated with the considerable infusion of reinstated amateurs, the "true" amateur still deserves the chance to be able to utter the famous phrase "So you're saying I have a chance?"

How about something truly innovative like expanding the Walker Cup team(s) to include 4 mid-amateurs and 4 senior amateurs? While you are at it, throw in 2 super-seniors to appeal to that growing demographic? Would the amateur golf world come to an end? Or would it actually be better?

I think the latter. Better. Wicked better.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike Cawley
I'm from the 'opposition' on the other side of the pond but I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Cawley. The Walker Cup has morphed into a competition solely for what Tom Watson called 'AMNOs" - amateurs in name only.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Or how about "Golfers receiving benefits of Division I Athletics Departments will not be considered amateurs until 8 years after they have exhausted their projected collegiate eligibility or the age of 30, whichever comes first."
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
I remember several years ago David Eger saying that the USGA has to decide what they want because there will always be 10 college kids better than any mid amateur. Of course Hagestad may be the exception to this but I believe he is a one off. Looks like they've made their decision. Too bad.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSun Mountain Man
Shouldn't it be AMINOs? Rolls off the tongue better. Would be nice to have a more mixed group than just a bunch of college kids a week before they turn pro. Oh well. Part and parcel of all the problems our sport is having. Fan base dying off, spigot of money still pouring in. Players droning through tournaments getting their checks.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Take the best players, whether they are 18 or 81. There will still be enough officials to throw a cocktail party every night.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGolden Bell
Agree with the above posts. Would make one small tweak to add Division II based on what I have seen with Division I and II in my area.

Probably should consider minimum age of 25.

Like I&B, I think the USGA has been oblivious in this case to the changes in 'amateur' golf despite all the machinations that the WC Committee must endure in selecting a team.

Of course, this just addresses the US side. Would leave the GB&I to enact something similar.

The minimum age of 25 might fix the issues of 'AMNO' on GB&I side but that can be sorted out by committees.
+1 to Mike Cawley. Maybe it should be 2 mid-ams and 2 seniors, but let the Walker Cup be a true celebration of amateur golf rather than a pre-Ryder Cup with anachronistic eligibility rules.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRinger
You're damn right mid ams need help making the team. We are competing for spots against professionals. Limit the Walker Cup team to two non-mid ams. THAT would be a positive for the mid am world.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered Commentermdr
Without a similar attempt by our British/Irish counterparts to commit to a similar representation on their team, I understand the USGA's decision. I'm disappointed even though I understand it. I wish the R&A still had a Mid-Amateur Championship and a similar competitive mid-Am culture to the USA but it obviously doesn't. I am still scratching my head as to why the R&A scratched their mid-am championship. The ultimate answer (which already exists in a not so perfect manner; aka Concession Cup) is to create an event like the Walker Cup between mid-ams/seniors between the USGA and R&A. Unfortunately the Concession Cup has trouble seeing West over the Rockies.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
There was also a time when the GB&I selectors couldn't see across the Irish Sea too. If I had my way all selectors would be drowned and both teams picked by order of merits. It's time the Walker Cup reverted to being a 'real' amateur competition again.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Mid-Ams, the top tier, are just re-instated amateurs.
Amateurs, Shamateurs, reinstated Ams, mid ams, its all too much hand wringing. If true amateurism, whatever that may be, is so glorious then simply being one should be ample reward.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
Ivan Morris, research the history of amateur reinstatement and you might find it less toxic. The R&A has been reinstating professionals to amateur status since the 19th century. Professionalism has never been considered a death sentence. From the outset the governing bodies of the game have never considered turning professional as a stain to ones reputation as a reinstated amateur. They got it right then, and they get it right now concerning reinstating amateurs.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff F.
Sorry I meant that post for Ghost of perry Maxwell.

Also, Hagestad, arguably the best mid-Am in the country right now, never turned professional.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff F.
Jeff F. Things are a lot more lenient today.

I know a PGA club professional who in the 1960s-70s who had 25+ starts in PGA Tour events. He was interested in getting into selling insurance, so he approached the USGA and asked how long he would need to wait to get his amateur status back. He was told, he would never have a chance to get his amateur standing back (pretty sure it was PJ Boatwright). Good thing for him, as he had a lucrative run on The Senior Tour.

I am surprised not one of the leading Mid-Am events has taken a must be a virgin approach to their invites as simply a way to distinguish their event in a crowded array of options.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
Let's not gloss over the fact that a lot of top mid-ams are hardly the working stiffs they are often made out to be. A lot of them "work in real estate" or "work in finance" in the same way that Tony Soprano works in waste management.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShort Knocker
Short Knocker: Insurance! The "plastics" for the Mid-Am golfer.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Myfeelings are similar to Short Knocker and KLG. Amateurism isn't defined by some altruistic, purity to never soil your reputation as a professional. It simply defines you as someone that doesn't play for, or accept money based on your golfing ability or reputation. There are plenty of trust fund types that are every bit as good (if not better) than mini tour type professional players. They just never had a need or push to make the decision to turn pro.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff F.
Good one short knocker.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Jeff F., but there needs to be a line drawn that comes having been in the crucible. It's one thing for a guy who has never done more than give a few lessons and fold sweaters to come back to amateur golf. But a guy who has held status on a tour, has stood over a putt that means keeping your card or going back to no man's land has had experience that no amateur could ever have.

I'm not one of these who actually believes there are "virtues" to amateurism. I am the first to tell anyone that concept only came about because rich people wanted to keep working class folks out of their games. But at some point, someone choosing to sing for their supper on the golf course has to live with that decision, and not take everything he's learned and be able to swoop in and wax guys who have always had jobs outside of golf.

Gary Nicklaus has held status on the PGA Tour several times. Someone like him should be competing in mid-ams? In Canada we have a guy named Ashley Chinner who made some bucks on the tour, and magically medals at every mid am qualifier he enters in Ontario. Really? The mid-am in the US is thought of as a back door to the Masters. And there are plenty of professional tournaments if these guys still want to play in tournaments.

I'll be called a cry baby, "play better", etc., and that's fine. In a number of ways, a lot of these guys are no better than the sandbaggers in the member guest. Just more official sanction to their going on I guess.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPat(another one)
Jeff F - I don't know about you but I have lived through an enormous amount of golf history and I cannot remotely reconcile what you say about reinstatement either historically or in practice. I can remember the time when if you even hinted that you were thinking of turning professional you would immediately be 'thrown out on your ear' and lose your amateur status - forever. I also remember cases where golfers found themselves in no man's land between the two because of the strictness of being an amateur and the closed shop mentality of the PGAs. I am not anti-professionalism. Being a pro is more noble than being a sham amateur. It may surprise you to hear that I am psychologically in favour of open golf - if only it could be agreed and arranged between the various authorities. There was a time that I 'adored' the Walker Cup but I can no longer look on it as a competition for genuine amateurs.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Pat (another one) - I am sure that I am not the only one to have encountered ex-Tour Pros playing off 'inflated' handicaps in member-guests. Both the member and guest should have been ashamed of themselves but they were more than happy 'to take the cash.'
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
I guess they've come to this decision because they know they can't be sure they're getting the strongest US team by guaranteeing two mid-Am spots. Seems to me that in the US mid-ams have a lot to keep themselves busy and the USGA mid-am is something to aim for as it gives you a spot in the Masters. And if you can get yourself on the list for some of the invitationals at top clubs you can have a lot of fun. In the case of GB&I golf, there's really zero chance of a mid-am making the Walker Cup team (two that did in recent time, Gary Wolstenholme and Nigel Edwards, the former played golf full time with the result he didn't have a penny to his name when he finished so he basically risked a retirement in penury to play golf and the latter had a job in golf that made it easy for him to play in everything he needed to). In GB&I you just have nothing to aim for as a mid-am, whilst you might be as good a golfer as the full time youngsters you won't be considered for selection unless you're a full time player and that's not possible if you're in your 30s and need to work. In a way, just to have one spot for a mid-am to aim at would be great but the R&A would never do it here.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob S
Ivan Morris,

Professionalism in golf didn't exist until the 1840's. By the 1880's professionals were being reinstated to amateur status by the R&A. While I understand there was a time when even mentioning that one dreamed of being a pro would instantly make them professional, history has shown that for over 125 years the governing bodies of golf don't considered turning pro a "death sentence".

I agree there is a grey area as to where to draw the line. Most former PGA Tour players don't get their status back if they had a notable career (I know there are a few exceptions). But then again, I find it interesting when someone holds such animosity for a former professional getting their amateur status back and yet not hold a trust fund-type with the same contempt. I know plenty of guys that never have to work a day in their life and play 30+ amateur tournaments a year with no need or desire to turn pro and somehow they are considered "pure amateurs".
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOld Junior Golfer
Ivan, even by the 1930's both the R&A and the USGA even had a section of the Rules dedicated to amateur reinstatement. So the "... forever" comment you made does't match up with reality. Not trying to be argumentative but amateur reinstatement has been around for a very long time.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff F.
didn't come close, tights---blew way through it. Applied for reinstatement late in life.

Maybe that's our answer on reinstated ams?
04.18.2017 | Unregistered Commenterczervik
"Canadian am champ." Is that like the British ski jumping champ?
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Local lore is that when Jones was asked in the reinstatement application if he had ever made money from golf, his answer was, "Hell, yes!" He never declared himself a professional but the instructional films made that a moot point. I think he and the USGA just let it lay there. IIRC his best finish in the Masters was 13th the first time around and that might have been out of the money. The reinstatement came long after he had last played the game in 1948. I think. It was a formality, granted for the Eisenhower Trophy played on the Old Course in 1958?
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
How could I forget Dillard Pruitt. Exhibit A, B and C.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPat(another one)
Thanks boys. Always an edumacation on here.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
Anger and resentment toward college kids, and also for mid-ams.
At the root of both, which everyone will deny, is simple class envy.
04.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBedard
It's a discussion not an argument. I'm for open golf which shows I am certainly not class conscious. I get the impression that attitude in the professional organisations is more against open golf than the amateur ones, which is ironic.
04.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Other than the great courses they play on, who cares.
04.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck
You keep thinkin' Bedard, that's what you're good at!
04.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
The only 'real amateurs' are the amateurs that aren't very good
04.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterReg Mac

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