NCAA Caves On Athlete Endorsements: What Now For (Golf) Amateur Status?

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Steve Berkowitz and Dan Wolken report on the NCAA caving in rather spectacular fashion to California’s fair pay act, voting “unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

But this was eye-opening given that California’s bill zeroed in on 2023 as the likely start date for such a move.

The statement about the board action did not provide specifics, but said changes to NCAA rules in each of the three divisions could occur immediately, as long as they occur within principles and guidelines that include:

• Assuring student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.

• Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.

• Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.

• Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.

• Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.

• Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.

This would naturally open the door to golf manufacturers to sign players to deals that they already have informal arrangements with to provide equipment. Which, in theory, would be the end of the elite amateur game including top college golfers.

The USGA is monitoring the situation. A statement from Thomas Pagel, Sr. Managing Director, Governance:

“We have been reviewing these same issues for some time, It’s clear that this topic has the potential to impact many amateur sports, including golf. It will continue to be a primary area of discussion as we review the Rules to reflect the modern game, while still staying true to the spirit behind what it means to be an amateur golfer.”

Given the erosion there of amateurism since players could start receiving free equipment and dress like corporate billboards, there may be sympathy for those receiving endorsement income. Ruling them ineligible for prominent amateur events may get chippy!

However, given that golfers like Tony Romo and Lucy Li retained their status even after clearly endorsing products on the back of their golf ability, perhaps some clever lawyer will find a way to maintain the distinction between pro and amateur golfers. But right now, I’m struggling to see how that will work.

Will California's New Law Put Another Nail In The Amateur Status Coffin?

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On the surface, major upheaval in college golf seems unlikely when California Governor Gavin Newsom likely signs the assembly bill allowing college athletes to profit off their likeness.

(Steve Berkowitz’s USA Today report here at Golfweek.com.)

This last paragraph in Berkowit’z piece clarifies the student athlete relationship with their school’s official shoe and apparel deals:

The amendments added by the Assembly include provisions designed to address potential conflicts between prospective athlete deals and school deals, such as shoe-and-apparel contracts. An athlete would not be allowed to have a deal that conflicts with a school contract, but a school contract would not be allowed to restrict an athlete from using their name, image and likeness for a commercial purpose when not engaged in official team activities.

While players now get free clubs, are on a first name basis with tour reps, wear corporate logos in the US Amateur and are committed to agents long before announcing the intent to turn pro, amateur status would seem to be a out the window once a player starts profiting off their likeness. The rules are pretty clear on this front.

However, exceptions for Tony Romo and Lucy Li would seem to open a player profiting off their likeness to point to those cases as amateur status-retaining precedent and therefore maintain access to USGA events or the Masters (should they be so fortunate).

The NCAA’s rebuttal is not expected until next month but given the number of athletes and schools in California, they’ll have a hard time containing this given the bill’s easy victory and support from top athletes.

It’s a huge mess, but one brought on by the NCAA’s refusal to find a solution as it rakes in millions and pays its head man $4 million a year on the backs of unpaid athletes.

Video: A Couple Of Walker Cup Mood Setters, Bhatia and Hunter

The official Walker Cup sites includes a nice meet, greet and persimmon testing (189 carry) with Akshay Bhatia, one of Team USA’s first three automatic selections and rising star.

Check it out here.

And for those who want to see 2019 Walker Cup host Hoylake in the old days, a couple of fun Pathe videos. Starting with Willie Hunter winning the 1921 British Amateur (with a wicked stymie play 40 seconds in). Hunter was eventually the longtime pro at Riviera in Los Angeles.

And what’s a visit to Hoylake without a little flashback to 1930 and Bobby Jones?

The Walker Cup Is Back And Where It All Started: Hoylake

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Royal Liverpool to be exact, continuing the R&A’s recent tendency to take an event that could go to more exotic locales to Open venues. (I will not complain in 2023 when the Old Course hosts again, assuming there are amateur golfers in 2023.)

But this is nearly 100 years since the first “unofficial” event that became the Walker Cup was played at Hoylake, so we’ll celebrate that near-anniversary when Chick Evans, Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet and Captain William Fownes were part of a 10-man team that played against Tommy Armour, Cyril Tolley, Roger Wethered and friends.

Anyway…

Team USA arrives two years after routing Great Britain & Ireland in Los Angeles, with only Stewart Hagestad returning from that squad. And the GB&I squads have won four straight, as Declan McGlinley notes here.

You can meet Team USA here in slightly over-the-top fashion.

The Daily Mail’s Derek Lawrenson profiles USA captain Nathaniel Crosby, a former U.S. Amateur champion taking over for Spider Miller.

Matthew Jordan, a 2017 Walker Cupper and now professional golfer, gives a tour of his home clubhouse and the amazing memorabilia recalling past competitions.

Hoylake, a much-revised H.S. Colt effort, appears to be in fantastic shape…

In an apparent nod to the old British Pathe films, sights and sounds from the practice round (in color, minus the newsreel music:

Television coverage, sadly, is limited. Screen grabs from the official site of Sky and Golf Channel highlights shows:

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Average World Ranking Of U.S. Amateur Final Eight: 187

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Actually, that’s the average of the seven who are ranked. One is unranked.

I offer this not to pick on the lads—average age of 20—who are playing excellent golf at Pinehurst, no doubt. Ron Driscoll’s wrap up and notes at the official site.

Still, as far as U.S. Amateur’s go, with a Walker Cup looming next month, not the best showing for the higher ranked players in the amateur game or much of a momentum builder for interest.

No top ten seeds advanced to the round of eight. Adam Woodward sets up the matchups for Golfweek. The most interesting story left may be that of Austin Squires, the 64th seed who earned his way into match play in a playoff and has knocked off some top players, including the top seed Brandon Wu.

Woodward with Squires’ story.

John Augenstein has the best chance to work his way onto the Walker Cup team despite a rough summer. Ryan Lavner with his story and hopes to work his way into consideration.

Hey on that note, just a reminder Fox has coverage on FS1 Friday, with network coverage of the semi’s and final this weekend.

The matchups:

Late Bloomer Gabriela Ruffels Survives Heat, 31st Hole Caddie Switch To Win U.S. Women's Amateur

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While the big boys were mired in slow play bickering, a sensational young player emerged in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Waverley.

Brentley Romine notes Gabriela Ruffels’ switch to golf at age 14 paying off with Australia’s first U.S. Women’s Am win and a fast-emerging career that is likely to get plenty of attention during the upcoming year.

And make sure to check out JuliaKate Culpepper’s game story from the final, including the zany story of Ruffels trying to come back in a match while also enduring a caddie switch at the 31st hole due to travel plans of her USC caddie/coach.

In addition to an unrelenting opponent and humid conditions, Ruffels switched caddies from USC head coach Justin Silverstein to Mississippi State junior Blair Stockett on 31st hole as Silverstein had to get to catch a flight for a funeral.

Throwing Stockett, whose home course is Old Waverly, into the mix to replace Silverstein hadn’t been planned for long. In fact, she only had an hour or two to get ready.

“Her mom kind of told me her coach and caddie had to take a flight so they didn’t really know how the timing would line up, but just be ready in case,” Stockett said. “So when they finished and were on lunch break, I marked a couple pins in my book and came out just in case and hole 15 I guess was when he needed to leave so I just jumped on, kept her calm. I knew she had it in her.”

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Semi's Set At Bandon Dunes

Congrats to Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell in making it to match play in every U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship since the event started in 2015. The two 40-year olds are in Wednesday’s semi-finals at Bandon Dunes’ Old Macdonald, reports David Shefter for USGA.org.

Sadly, with the event the same week as the U.S. Women’s Open, the four-ball at Old Macdonald can’t be seen in video coverage or Fox Sports coverage.

ANWA: Highest Rated Amateur Golf Event Since 2003, Women's Event In Almost Three Years

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The Augusta National Women’s Amateur final round on NBC was the highest-rated overnight rating for a women’s golf telecast since the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open final round on Fox according to Nielsen Company.

The .96 was also a big number in the amateur golf rating world. For Immediate Release from Golf Channel:

INAUGURAL AUGUSTA NATIONAL WOMEN’S AMATEUR ON NBC SCORES HIGHEST-RATED AMATEUR GOLF TELECAST – MEN’S OR WOMEN’S – IN 16 YEARS

AUGUSTA, Ga., (April 7, 2019) – The final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, won by Jennifer Kupcho (Senior, Wake Forest University), is the highest-rated amateur golf telecast – men’s or women’s – in 16 years, with a .96 Overnight Rating (Noon-3 p.m. ET/9 a.m.-Noon PT) Saturday on NBC (1.36 Overnight Rating, 2003 U.S. Amateur Men’s Finals won on the 37th hole of a sudden death playoff, from 4-6:15 p.m. ET on NBC), according to data released today by The Nielsen Company. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur began with a GOLF Films short, When I Grow Up, I Want To..., which has garnered nearly one million views on social media this weekend.

Before We Move On: The Inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur Exceeds Nearly All Expectations

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When Fred Ridley shocked the Masters world a year ago with the announcement of a women’s amateur event to precede the Masters, it was admittedly hard to see the event working out of the chute. There were just too many questions about how the event could click on a golf course untested by female players who would only get one practice round.

Not only did the skeptics have their questions answered by a magical performance from two exceptional talents in Maria Fassi and winner Jennifer Kupcho, something unthinkable happened: we were reminded of a better time for Augusta National when the course functioned…just better. The patrons noticed on site and even viewers reached out to ask if the pace was as fast as it looked (it really wasn’t…I explain why it seemed that way in this course assessment for Golfweek.)

Beth Ann Nichols files a wonderful account of the day and the stellar performance by Kupcho shooting 67 even after a migraine appeared at the 8th tee for the first time since her freshman year in college.

The day will forever be remembered by this epic, foot-on-the-pedal shot from Kupcho. She was two back at the time.

And as if scripted, she put the exclamation point on the round with this birdie putt at the 18th:

As for improvements, a few thoughts:

—The one day gap between the opening two rounds and the finale at Augusta National actually worked thanks to players suggesting they enjoyed the reprieve after the cut was made. It still should be changed. A Wednesday practice round for all competitors followed by a Chairman’s dinner at Augusta National seems more fitting of a proper championship. Two rounds at Champions Retreat, followed by the Saturday final round at Augusta National would require less explaining.

—A merchandise shop closure around noon ET in future years should get more patrons out on the course watching some stellar golf. I get it people, you came to shop but you were a little slow to find your way out to…Augusta National on a perfect day for spectating.

—Better merchandise. Even with a fantastic logo that already took on a timeless appearance, the offerings were slim and uninspired. Oddly absent given the club’s understanding of history, there were few items with the “inaugural” designation for this historic day (a poster playing off the original Augusta National Invitational program cover would have been outstanding).

Any thoughts from out there on what you saw via the broadcast or from on site as a patron?

The Female Golfing Greats Who Changed Bobby Jones' Life: Golf Channel Feature Debuting Today

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I’m very excited to share the story this week of Bobby Jones and the great female amateurs who intersected with is life at key times, influencing his temperament, humility and ultimately, his vision for Augusta National.

The new women’s amateur event underway and concluding Saturday on NBC allowed us the opportunity to showcase three of the all time great female amateur golfers, but also explain how, as with so much of his life, Jones was an outlier when it came to admiring, respecting and benefitting from his friendships with Alexa Stirling, Joyce Wethered and Marion Hollins.

A Golf Channel feature produced by Dominic Dastoli and written and voiced by yours truly appears today on Live From The Augusta National Women’s Amateur (around 10:30-11 ET on Golf Channel.) . I’ll be on to discuss the story and why went about this. There will be other airings but please tune in and share your thoughts!

In the meantime, David Owen, who contributed to our feature, continues the great work of David Outerbridge and Bob Beck in telling the story of Marion Hollins, 1921 US Amateur champion, giant figure in the 1920s golf world and an underrated figure in shaping the development of Augusta National.

From Owen’s New Yorker piece this week:

Hollins, in addition to providing the original model for Augusta National, made one small direct contribution to its golf course—as I myself discovered in the late nineties, while I was researching my book “The Making of the Masters.” In 1931, Roberts complained to MacKenzie, in a letter, that MacKenzie wasn’t spending enough time in Augusta during the construction of the course. The main reason was that MacKenzie had money troubles of his own, including the fact that Augusta National had stopped paying him. But in his place he sent Hollins, who at that point was more than flush. “She has been associated with me in three golf courses, and not only are her own ideas valuable, but she is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of the work I like,” he wrote to Roberts. “I want her views and also her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out.” Roberts was unhappy not to have MacKenzie himself, and he said that Jones would be unhappy, too. But MacKenzie defended Hollins in another letter, to the engineer who was supervising construction of the course. “I do not know any man, who has sounder ideas,” he wrote, and added, “She was most favourably impressed with it.”

And the magic of the Internet, it’s now posted:

Women's Amateur Cut Made, Players Welcome Their First Shot At Augusta National

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Player diaries can be pretty dull but Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, just one stroke out of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur lead, is delivering forthright and interesting takes for Golfweek.

Today is the Augusta National practice round before Saturday’s final round on NBC. Fassi is glad they have the day off and maybe she’ll be calling Angel Cabrera tonight for advice.

I’m tired. Mentally drained after two rounds at Champions Retreat and actually relieved that there’s a chance to reset tomorrow during the practice round at Augusta National. I’ll meditate and enjoy some quiet time.

The weather report doesn’t look great, but I’m confident that even if I don’t get in 18 holes tomorrow, that I’ll have a good game plan.

Ángel Cabrera reached out about a week ago. He’s a big fan of the team my dad’s working with in Argentina (Club Atlético Talleres) and wanted to offer his congrats and assistance. He said I could call back after Friday’s practice round if I had more questions.

Pleased to report the rain passed by overnight and the practice round appears to be going off without a hitch.

Beth Ann Nichols reports on the playoff of 11 for 10 spots to make the cut into Saturday’s final round, including the incredible tale of Ainhoa Olarra.

USGA Announces Six U.S. Amateur Venues From 2021 To 2026: Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills, Hazeltine, Olympic And Merion

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Interesting to see the USGA announce so many venues at once for the U.S. Amateur.

Obviously the standouts are Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills and Merion—Hazeltine and Olympic once would have been exciting but seem overexposed and architecturally uninspiring now compared to the rest of the scheduled venues. Both are scheduled to host future Ryder Cups.

The next two U.S. Amateurs are at Pinehurst and Bandon Dunes.

For Immediate Release:

U.S. Amateur Returns to Oakmont, Ridgewood, Cherry Hills, 
Hazeltine National, The Olympic Club and Merion

USGA announces six U.S. Amateur Championship sites, from 2021 through 2026

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Feb. 21, 2019) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced sites for six U.S. Amateur Championships, from 2021 through 2026. Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club will host the U.S. Amateur in 2021 and will be followed by Ridgewood (N.J.) Country Club in 2022 and Cherry Hills Country Club, in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., in 2023. The 2024, 2025 and 2026 championships will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club, in Chaska, Minn.; The Olympic Club, in San Francisco, Calif.; and Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore, Pa., respectively.

“This distinguished group of future U.S. Amateur sites aligns the USGA’s oldest championship with courses of historical significance and proven competitive excellence which will be beneficial to both the player and fan experience,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships. “Amateur golf is primary to the USGA’s mission and the partnerships with these prominent clubs affirm our commitment to supporting and growing amateur competition.”

Designed by Henry C. Fownes and opened in 1903, Oakmont Country Club has been the site of 16 previous USGA championships, the most recent in 2016 when Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open by three strokes. In 2025, the U.S. Open will return to Oakmont for a record 10th time. The 2021 U.S. Amateur will mark the sixth time the championship has been held on the iconic western Pennsylvania course. Oakmont previously hosted the U.S. Amateur in 1919, 1925, 1938, 1969 and 2003.

Ridgewood’s three nine-hole courses – East, Center and West – were designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened for play in 1929. Ridgewood, which will host its fifth USGA championship, was the site of the 1974 U.S. Amateur, when Jerry Pate defeated John P. Grace, 2 and 1. The club most recently hosted the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior, won by Eun Jeong Seong. It also hosted the 1990 U.S. Senior Open, when Lee Trevino posted a two-stroke victory over Jack Nicklaus.

In 2023, Cherry Hills Country Club will host its third U.S. Amateur and 10th USGA championship. Steven Fox made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 37th hole to defeat Michael Weaver and cap a memorable 2012 U.S. Amateur final. Phil Mickelson, then a 20-year-old Arizona State University student, captured the 1990 U.S. Amateur there. Designed by William Flynn, Cherry Hills has hosted three U.S. Opens. Arnold Palmer produced one of the most indelible performances in Open history with a final-round 65 and a record comeback in 1960, while Ralph Guldahl (1938) and Andy North (1978) also won there.

Hazeltine National will host the 2024 U.S. Amateur, its 10th USGA championship. The club will also be the site for the 2020 U.S. Junior Amateur. Designed by Robert Trent Jones and remodeled by his son, Rees Jones, Hazeltine National hosted the 2006 U.S. Amateur, which was won by Richie Ramsay, the first player from Scotland to win the title since 1898. The U.S. Open Championship has been contested twice at Hazeltine. In 1970, Tony Jacklin became the first Englishman to win in 50 years, while Payne Stewart claimed the first of his two U.S. Opens in an 18-hole playoff over Scott Simpson in 1991.

The Olympic Club (Lake and Ocean Courses) will host its 12th USGA championship with the 2025 U.S. Amateur. The U.S. Women’s Open is also scheduled in 2021. The club has held three U.S. Amateurs (1958, 1981, 2007). Five U.S. Opens have been held at The Olympic Club, including Jack Fleck’s three-stroke playoff victory over Ben Hogan in 1955 and Billy Casper’s four-stroke playoff win over Arnold Palmer in 1966. Webb Simpson (2012), Lee Janzen (1998) and Scott Simpson (1987) each produced come-from-behind victories.

Merion Golf Club will establish records for most USGA championships hosted by a club (20) and most U.S. Amateurs when the Amateur is contested there for the seventh time in 2026. Merion, which hosted its first USGA championship in 1904 – the U.S. Women’s Amateur – will also host the 2022 Curtis Cup Match. The U.S. Open has been played five times (1934, 1950, 1971, 1981, 2013) at the club, while six U.S. Amateurs have been held (1916, 1924, 1930, 1966, 1989 and 2005). Hugh Wilson designed Merion’s East Course, where Bob Jones won two of his record five U.S. Amateurs (1924, 1930).

The 119th U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 12-18, 2019 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C., while the 2020 championship will take place at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in Bandon, Ore., Aug. 10-16.

"Lucy Li, Tony Romo Situations Are Another Blow To Amateur Golf"

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The USGA letting off Lucy Li for a blatant amateur status violation was not a huge surprise, but juxtaposed with Tony Romo’s Skechers golf shoe ad campaign running during golf telecasts, and the overall commercialization is expediting the de-legitimization of amateur golf and the organizations charged with enforcing the rules.

Even worse, there is a growing sense of the rulemakers playing favorites. My Golfweek column.

USGA Allows Lucy Li To Retain Her Amateur Status...

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The star of an Apple ad and Nike ambassador Lucy Li has been issued a “one-time warning” for a blatant violation of amateur status rules.

In covering this for Golfweek, Beth Ann Nichols includes this from Thomas Pagel:

“Since that time, the USGA has had several discussions with both Apple and the Li family and has confirmed that Ms. Li has neither received, nor will receive, any monetary or non-monetary (e.g., products) compensation for her appearance in the advertisement.”

The USGA said it took into consideration that Li is a minor and that this was her first breach of the rules.

For Immediate Release…

USGA Statement Regarding Amateur Status of 
Highly Ranked Golfer Lucy Li

February 14, 2019

The USGA Amateur Status Committee has ruled that amateur golfer Lucy Li breached Rule 6-2 of the Rules of Amateur Status by participating in an Apple Watch “Close Your Rings” advertisement campaign.  Following that determination, the Committee carefully reviewed the facts and circumstances surrounding the breach in order to determine the appropriate penalty for Ms. Li. 

As a result of that effort, the USGA has issued Ms. Li a one-time warning. She will retain her Amateur Status.

Late last year, Ms. Li was engaged by a casting agent for an acting assignment to promote the Apple Watch. At that time, the nature of her participation was not defined and she was given no indication that she would appear as a golfer. While on this assignment, Ms. Li was filmed engaging in a variety of recreational activities, one of which was golf. The casting agent informed her that her appearance in any final advertisement was not guaranteed, nor did they know how she would be featured.

Ms. Li first became aware of the final content of the advertisement, which featured her as a golfer, on Jan. 2. She was notified by the USGA of a pending review into her Amateur Status on Jan. 3. At that time, Apple immediately took down the advertisement in all its forms. On Jan. 11, USGA notified Ms. Li  she had breached the Rules of Amateur Status.

Since that time, the USGA has had several discussions with both Apple and the Li family and has confirmed that Ms. Li has neither received, nor will receive in the future, any monetary or non-monetary (e.g., products) compensation for her appearance in the advertisement. Ms. Li has affirmed to the USGA that at the time she agreed to participate in the advertisement she did not know she was breaching the Rules of Amateur Status, and at no time did she intend to forfeit her Amateur Status.

In determining the level of penalty, the Committee considered all these facts and circumstances, including a recognition that Ms. Li is a minor and that this was her first breach of the rules. This ruling is consistent with the Committee’s general practice of issuing a warning to amateurs who unknowingly breach Rule 6-2 for the first time and take appropriate remedial measures.  The USGA has communicated this ruling to Ms. Li and this matter is now closed.

We encourage amateur golfers who are unsure about taking a proposed action to engage with their governing body early in the process, in an effort to protect their Amateur Status.

2020 Latin America Amateur Headed To Mayakoba Where Caddies Live In Constant Fear Of Being Paid Full Fare

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Poor Matt Kuchar.

Just when you think the story of your substandard payment to your Tour-event winning stand-in caddie was about to disappear from headlines, the good folks at the Masters, R&A and USGA had the gall to announce Mayakoba’s El Camaleon GC as the site of the 2020 Latin America Amateur.

This is the same course where Kuchar won. The news dispelled one mythological view on why Kuchar might have severely underpaid El Tucan after winning last fall’s Mayakoba Classic: because the area is so dangerous that any looper getting a proper 10%-of-$1.3 million-check would be in imminent danger, as would his family.

Apparently, the Five Families don’t agree.

For Immediate Release!

2020 LATIN AMERICA AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP TO BE HELD AT MAYAKOBA

Renowned amateur championship will make its debut in Mexico for the sixth edition

17 January 2019, La Romana, Dominican Republic: The Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) will be held in Mexico for the first time next year at Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf Club on Riviera Maya, January 16-19, 2020. Championship organizers made the announcement today during the 2019 LAAC currently underway at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. 

Founded by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA, the LAAC was established to further develop amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The event moves to top courses throughout Latin America and showcases the sport’s rising talent in the region, including Chilean Joaquin Niemann, who competed in the Masters last year as 2018 LAAC champion and is currently playing on the PGA Tour.                                                                                           

Along with an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club awarded to the champion, the winner and the runner(s)-up are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open Championship. The champion is also given full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. 

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “The Latin America Amateur Championship has quickly established itself as a key date on the golfing calendar for elite men’s amateurs throughout this region. I’m sure there will be many players who will be aiming to secure a place in the sixth staging of the championship next year and play at Mayakoba, which is a fantastic test of golf. We are looking forward to taking the event to Mexico and to a venue with such an excellent championship pedigree.”  

Opened in 2006, Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf Club was designed by two-time Open Champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman. In 2007, it became the home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the first official PGA Tour event to be contested outside the U.S. and Canada, with notable winners including 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and top-100 ranked players Matt Kuchar, Charley Hoffman and Pat Perez. The course also hosted the World Amateur Team Championships in 2016.

El Camaleón plays along a stretch of crystal-clear freshwater canals surrounded by mangrove and limestone walls. The 18-hole layout features paspalum grass, two holes along the Mexican Caribbean Sea and distinctive hazards, including cenotes (sink holes) and extensive bunkers. 

“Mayakoba looks forward to hosting the Latin America Amateur Championship and the region’s premier amateur golfers in 2020,” said Borja Escalada, CEO of Mayakoba. “El Camaleón was built as a true test for competitive play and this is a wonderful opportunity to represent Mexico as the backdrop for Latin America’s best and brightest young players. We are grateful to the Masters Tournament, The R&A and USGA for their selection and are excited to deliver hospitality of the highest caliber offered at our resort.”  

Latin America Amateur Reminder: Casa De Campo Again Hosting, ESPN Televising

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Ryan Herrington breaks down who the top hopefuls are in the Latin America Amateur Championship, where a spot in the Masters is on the line.

Ron Driscoll writes about the legendary Pete Dye “Teeth of the Dog” design returning as host of the LAAC.

ESPN’s telecast times:

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You can check out the scoring here.

A nice teaser video of the course:

Amateur Status Update: Mike Davis Talks Lucy Li As USGA Conducts Ongoing Investigation

Those curious about the ramifications for amateur status will learn a lot form USGA CEO Mike Davis’s comments to Golf Central regarding the status of Lucy Li’s case after starring in an Apple Watch ad: she’s adorable, she’s a Curtis Cupper and she’ll be around a long time according to Mike Davis.

Translation: she’s not losing her status. Script those Nike outfits, wear that watch and book that flight to Augusta!

ANWA Invitations Have Arrived, Including Lucy Li's

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The glorious (and big!) Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations have started arriving in mailboxes of the players who have earned exemptions to the inaugural event. Beth Ann Nichols with Anna Redding’s story of opening the big invite.

Of special note is the glee with which Lucy Li celebrated her invitation as the USGA weighs the 16-year-old’s amateur status following an Apple Watch ad appearance.


As ANWA Invites Go Out, What Will Be Li's Post Apple Ad Status?

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As the USGA sorts our Lucy Li’s starring role in an Apple Watch ad, Steve Eubanks of Global Golf Post recaps the story and notes the no-win position faced by the governing bodies.

There aren’t many rocks and hard places much bigger than the ones they’re between.

While he suggests that’s based on past reputation, I’d counter that their biggest hurdle is a society seeing no issues with amateurs taking freebies or payment for endorsements. The lines have certainly been blurred by the Olympics and even things as seemingly innocuous as allowing amateur golfers to wear scripted corporate logo gear.

Still, no matter how you feel Eubanks makes a key point that mustn’t be forgotten in the debate.

But before you jump to conclusions, think about this: Li is listed in the field for the AJGA Buick Shanshan Feng Girls Invitational on Feb. 15-18. She will be playing against girls who know the rules; girls with parents who have shelled out small fortunes to keep their daughters competitive in the junior game. 

How will those girls and their parents look at Li? Will anyone call her a cheater to her face?

Others played by the rules and while they may not have been offered endorsement opportunities, many or most of those players likely would have followed the rules. Li’s parents did not and while it’s a shame, clearly all involved were not concerned with her amateur status. For that alone, it’s time to let her pursue a professional career.

With Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations going out this week, it will be interesting to see if the good folks in Augusta are holding on to Li’s automatic invite (based on world ranking) until a decision is handed down?

We discussed on this week’s Alternate Shot:


Maybe It’s Time To Re-think "Amateur Status"

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It is a clear-cut violation of amateur status rules, assuming such things matter any more. Maybe they should not in a world that increasingly wants to market to and cash in on the kids. I digress.

To review: Lucy Li, 16, broke onto the national stage at age 10 by qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst at age 12, played on the 2018 Curtis Cup team and is the ninth-ranked female amateur golfer in the world.

Li, still an amateur golfer, is the centerpiece of this AppleWatch ad posted on Twitter January 2nd:

There is no grey here. This was a heavily produced piece in which she is wearing scripted Nike outfits, is filmed in a faux social setting, and is shown in golf action wearing her watch while appearing in an ad to promote a product. She is blatantly allowing a third party to use her likeness.

Nothing in the language on amateur status comes remotely close to spinning Li’s behavior as anything other than an obvious violation.

Contacted by Ryan Herrington of GolfDigest.com, Li cited an NDA for not commenting while Amy Li, her mother, is claiming there was no payment for Lucy’s time or image.

Contacted by Golf Digest, Li said she had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Apple that prohibited her from discussing the video. Li’s mother, Amy, said via text message that Lucy and the family did not receive any compensation for being in the video.

We’re looking at either a blatant amateur status violation or a case of poor parenting by letting a child star in an ad without compensation.

The USGA is “investigating” and “thankful for the dialogue.”

But in a sport increasingly desperate for the attention of anyone under 30 with most organizations making decisions with an eye on how younger generations will view decisions, there is little chance the USGA will revoke her amateur status. Besides consistently abdicating responsibility on multiple fronts, they’ve refused to undermined their rules on amateurism by allowing teenagers to receive free clubs and scripted attire. The R&A sadly concurs.

Children are now billboards in golf on a first name basis with company representatives and agents. If the governing bodies of golf are not bothered and society is increasingly fine with pushing people to peak in life by 20, then why do we bother with amateur status.

Look at the follow-up answers to Global Golf Post’s tweet on this news. Starting with GGP’s own follow up post.

The implication of both Tweets seems to be that a company that large and that successful excuses Li’s violation because it could benefit the sport having such wealth and influence like golf?

As an Apple fanboy it’s wonderful to see them taking notice, but to suggest ignoring the rules in place for corporate and youth-obsessed marketing agendas means it may just be time to throw out all of the rules.

The image and reputation of the amateur game was already in decline. Looking the other way on Li, as the governing bodies will surely do after checking with their image consultants, won’t stem the bleeding nor will it change behavior of “amateurs”. Players with exemptions to major championships regularly pass them up and turn pro instead of taking once-in-a-lifetime playing opportunities. The mid-amateur world is played in almost complete anonymity while the best amateur tournaments in the United States barely register a blip.

At the U.S. Amateur, a vast majority of spectators are either family, friends, agents or representatives of manufacturers who swarm players and even cheer on those who use their equipment.

The lure of professional golf is the only thing keeping amateur golf relevant. It’s a feeder world for men and women and Li will not be punished for acting like a pro when she’s likely turning pro soon, anyway. The modern USGA will not take on a player in such high profile fashion, particularly a young woman who has been a big part of their events. As Frank Hannigan always lamented, the organization’s decision-making is driven by a desire to be loved and a fear of being seen as having interfered with someone’s ability to make a living. The rules of amateur status are nothing more now than a linked page on a website.

So if we’ve reached this point, why not just accept that by allowing players to be paid for their time promoting products? Let them pay a few bills and live the American dream? The ones who want to be pro golfers look like they are already operating that way because they don’t care what the governing bodies think. A society where every opportunity to profit must be protected will probably side with Li and other players who are just playing golf ultimately just to make a buck.