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Jay Chizza

Why Does a Big Money Amateur Event Not Exist?

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Hello all,

I've been doing a bunch of research and cannot drill down an answer... I'm trying to figure out what forces are there that are preventing folks from gathering and playing for prize money, tournament style? Just like a poker tournament.  You put your money in, the "house" takes a rake, and the rest of the money is distributed amongst the top 10% to 20% of finishers.  

I ask because I participated in the largest handicapped tournament in the world - the US WorldAM and it was a great experience.  It had a "big event feel" to it and that was a major draw for many of us making the trek.  I call it the "US Open for Bad Golfers."  That said, myself and some guys in my flight got to talking about this, and thought it would be pretty cool.  

I understand that the USGA will not approve.  But, the USGA doesn't govern all golfers. Add to that, less than 1% of golfers will play in a USGA event or even local / state Amateur Championship...

It seems like the demand is there, but the product is not. I am wondering why? What am I missing?  What's the big pink elephant in the room that I'm too blind to see? 

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The primary reason it doesn't exist is because of the importance of the distinction between amateurs and professionals in the world of golf. These rules, plus the fact that the average golfer isn't that good compared to pros or top amateurs, mean nobody is motivated to play for the sole purpose of prize money in events like you describe.

Low-handicap amateurs can't play in events like that, at least not events of any size, because they would earn too much to remain an amateur. Professionals wouldn't want to play in events like that because the purse would be too small to be worth their time (most of the prize money in professional tournaments comes from sponsors, not entry fees).

As far as the weekend golfer is concerned, they wouldn't want to play it this type of tournament either because they wouldn't have a chance of winning. They know they won't finish in the top 10-20% of golfers in the tournament, so why throw their money away? The only people with a chance of winning are professionals and low-handicap amateurs, who wouldn't/couldn't want to play in the tournament for the reasons outlined above.

Besides that, the format you describe is very similar to the tournaments hosted by men's/ladies club organizations at courses across the country, or city championships. The only real differences is that the competitions often include net payouts in those events, as well as those events having their payouts capped to avoid running afoul of amateur status regulations. The events also often accumulate points for a season-long overall championship. My city's championship event as well as all the nearby men's club events all pay out to the top X finishers using a portion of the entry fees. What specifically is different about those types of events from what you propose?

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That’s basically how mini-tours work. Local professional tournaments too, like State Opens. 

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37 minutes ago, Pretzel said:

The primary reason it doesn't exist is because of the importance of the distinction between amateurs and professionals in the world of golf.

What specifically is different about those types of events from what you propose?

Thank you for this response.  What I had in mind would essentially be tournaments that are scored based on net scoring. For example, a double digit handicap golfer was declared "World Champ" at last years' Myrtle Beach WorldAM. That's why I went.  I had a "realistic chance" of becoming world champ as a double digit handicap.  That's what draws thousands upon thousands of people there every year. 

However, there were flights with golfers with handicaps as low as scratch.  Certain flights were gross scoring, other flights were net scoring.  

The gentleman who won in 2018, "beat better golfers."   To that end, the target market would be the overwhelming majority of golfers who post gross scores in the range of 85-95.  These guys are already throwing $20 into skins games on Saturdays, why not throw the same $20 into a prize pool where X% are paid out?  

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We have a hard enough time with sandbaggers on my home courses few open events it has each year. I think this would seem like nirvana to them .

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6 minutes ago, Papa Steve 55 said:

We have a hard enough time with sandbaggers on my home courses few open events it has each year. I think this would seem like nirvana to them .

Regarding sandbagging, the solution the organizers came up with at Myrtle Beach was to issue judgments based on statistical data.  Sandbag = DQ from prize eligibility.  You can finish the tournament, but you're not eligible to receive as much as a ham sandwich at the end, much less compete in the Championship round.  A BUNCH of DQ's are handed out every summer. I would imagine that there have been one or two legit "once in a lifetime rounds," but, with thousands of people there, they were not taking any chances.  

I just dug this link up... 

http://www.popeofslope.com/sandbagging/2010-12-busted.html

 

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36 minutes ago, Jay Chizza said:

Regarding sandbagging, the solution the organizers came up with at Myrtle Beach was to issue judgments based on statistical data.  Sandbag = DQ from prize eligibility.  You can finish the tournament, but you're not eligible to receive as much as a ham sandwich at the end, much less compete in the Championship round.  A BUNCH of DQ's are handed out every summer. I would imagine that there have been one or two legit "once in a lifetime rounds," but, with thousands of people there, they were not taking any chances.  

I just dug this link up... 

http://www.popeofslope.com/sandbagging/2010-12-busted.html

 

You can try, but you can't get rid of every single sandbagger without risking the ban of actual legitimate player. There are city tournaments all over the nation, and what is nice about them, is that you see the same players week in and week out at clubs, munis, privates, whatever their course may be. People see them all the time and know what their true skill is. When you move to a regional level, you lose this scrutiny, and either have to accept all, or risk banning or barring people that don't deserve it.

I wouldn't want to go to a tournament that is net but I don't know or haven't seen 99% of the people play before. What if the 12 capper that just shot a 72 legitimately had the best day of his life and is an honest player? He/she gets banned or barred just because they had their best round ever? Doesn't sound like an event I want to take a part in, and I think many players would share this sentiment.

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I can picture people getting disqualified unnecessarily because of that system, and the line of what is "too good to be true" for net scoring is entirely arbitrary.

The bigger issue with net scoring, in general, is that the odds of a low handicapped golfer winning are near zero unless the handicaps are adjusted in a way that ends up making it too difficult for high handicap golfers to perform well. The primary issue is just that high handicap golfers have much more variability in their score than low handicap golfers, meaning a personal best followed by 2 above-average rounds (what it usually takes to win a big event's net scoring) is a substantially lower net score than a low-handicapper's personal best plus two above-average rounds.

I imagine some people would be interested, as evidenced by the Myrtle Beach WorldAM, but many of the people who enjoy golf enough to enter and play in tournaments for cash prizes are also the type of golfers who would not play in net events. You could organize the events, but unless there's a draw besides just the money (such as the draw of playing in Myrtle Beach), you'll attract the same crowd that already plays in the men's club and city championship events. I can see there being some interest, just not nationwide interest because I still don't see anything that sets it apart from club championship or men's league style tournaments. They're the same thing essentially, but with net scoring only rather than net and gross.

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Great points raised.

Let me start with the question... What if someone legitimately shoots the round of their lives? 

To that I'd say "trust the math."  This "idea" basically boils down to a math problem. 

Math doesn't have feelings or emotions, and if money is at stake, then I'd say that the person who shot the round of their lives must be eliminated from receiving prize money.  That's the only way that works.  "You holed out from 70 yards AND you holed some miraculous chip shots?" Sorry, too bad. Disqualified.  Nothing personal. Just math. 

People have traveled far and wide just to see their name on an "official leaderboard in a pro feeling tournament" - The WorldAM, and have been eliminated from competition.  Day 2 is elimination day.  Dozens of people are eliminated in total. Yet, the event continues to draw... continues to grow.  Even though every year, starting day two hundreds of golfers face "disqualifies row."  

That aside, I'm placing myself in the shoes of a 12 capper who just put down $100 to beat a bunch of other 10-12 cappers butts for some cash.  I'm likely to continue to participate as long as I feel like it's extremely difficult for me to get robbed.  Will the person who shot the round of their lives return? Who knows.  But, I will because again, I don't feel like I can get easily robbed and it gives me a sense of security.  

Pretzel, you raised some very good points regarding variability.  But as it relates to it being the same as other net scoring events, I'd beg to differ.  

This whole post was predicated on the idea that cold hard cash, green backs would be embedded within the Myrtle Beach WorldAM Model.  Not this maximum $750 cash / prize value stuff.   

The guy who won as a high handicapper and become world champ got a couple of gift cards, free entry, and a trophy I believe.  What if that same guy could walk away with a check for $25,000 USD instead?  What if the guy in 2nd got $10,000 in cold hard cash? 3rd $5,000 - and so on.  All 12-15 cappers... 

That being said, you seem to be a very skilled golfer and are speaking from the lens of a highly skilled golfer.  However, this "brain fart" only works for the unskilled golfer.  I just don't see a way to market this concept to a 0-5 handicap golfer.

Any large Hotel / Casino chain could slap their names on a concept like this and sell out tournaments in the poker room alone. "Hacks playing for big buckets of cash..."  Sounds gross and exciting at the same time.  

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I have played in the World Am for the past 32 consecutive years.  Great tournament.  Lot of fun.  

I play in 2 different traveling tournament leagues.  You pay your entry fee and play stroke play.  So, there are options out there if you like to play competitive golf.  

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12 minutes ago, Jay Chizza said:

This whole post was predicated on the idea that cold hard cash, green backs would be embedded within the Myrtle Beach WorldAM Model.  Not this maximum $750 cash / prize value stuff.   

The guy who won as a high handicapper and become world champ got a couple of gift cards, free entry, and a trophy I believe.  What if that same guy could walk away with a check for $25,000 USD instead?  What if the guy in 2nd got $10,000 in cold hard cash? 3rd $5,000 - and so on.  All 12-15 cappers... 

That being said, you seem to be a very skilled golfer and are speaking from the lens of a highly skilled golfer.  However, this "brain fart" only works for the unskilled golfer.  I just don't see a way to market this concept to a 0-5 handicap golfer.

Any large Hotel / Casino chain could slap their names on a concept like this and sell out tournaments in the poker room alone. "Hacks playing for big buckets of cash..."  Sounds gross and exciting at the same time.  

I can actually give a bit of a side anecdote on this.

I am a far better pool player than I am golfer (and pool is a far easier game). There are multiple big time leagues that are nationwide, and most hold a national tournament as well as state tournaments everywhere. BCA (Billiards Congress of America) and VNEA (Valley National Eightball League Association) are the 2 that I play in personally at a local week to week league that runs for 2/3 of the year (gotta have winter stuff to do in Ohio). Here are some of the pay scales that I have seen at the state level, in which I have played multiple times, and the national level, which I have no time to play (these are 10-12 days long, in Vegas, and expensive to attend aside from the entry fees).

Entry fees at state tournaments range from 80-120 dollars per person on a 5 man team format, and usually the same for the singles event. A 1st place win in teams usually gets about 1500-3000 dollars for the team (300 to 600 per man), and they typically pay around a quarter of the field. When you start adding up the entries vs the payouts, it is something silly like 50%ish is paid back. Obviously they have to rent the venue, the tables and the like, but someone is getting paid, big time.

At Vegas (nationals), it gets worse. These tournaments draw BIG numbers. 500 teams or so go to compete. They pay their 80-120 dollars per man, and first place is somewhere in the range of 10k-15k for the 5 man team. 20:1 odds on money for a 1:500 shot to win (obviously if you are skilled, this goes up, but it is the average).

Some leagues are worse than others when it comes to what they pay, but the point is, most of the money gets eaten up in administration, planning, booking, etc. If you had a 100 dollar entry on this purposed tournament, and a 25k first prize, you are most likely talking over two thousand players, possibly more, to get that kind of payday. Something like 250:1 odds on money with a 1:2000 shot to win. It's a bad bet. Sure it's a fun time, but the only person that wins is the house really.

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2 minutes ago, RickK said:

I have played in the World Am for the past 32 consecutive years.  Great tournament.  Lot of fun.  

I play in 2 different traveling tournament leagues.  You pay your entry fee and play stroke play.  So, there are options out there if you like to play competitive golf.  

There a zillion and one options for playing competitive golf indeed.  Tons of options locally, and nationally.  From club tournaments (the "Mini Masters" for me soon), to national / regional stuff like what the Golf Channel is doing. 

I think it would be cool for big handicaps to be able to play for "big" bucks (relatively speaking).  Not just gift cards and pro shop credits.  

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3 minutes ago, Jay Chizza said:

There a zillion and one options for playing competitive golf indeed.  Tons of options locally, and nationally.  From club tournaments (the "Mini Masters" for me soon), to national / regional stuff like what the Golf Channel is doing. 

I think it would be cool for big handicaps to be able to play for "big" bucks (relatively speaking).  Not just gift cards and pro shop credits.  

Don't tell the USGA but we don't play for gift cards or pro shop credit.

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17 minutes ago, Bonvivant said:

Some leagues are worse than others when it comes to what they pay, but the point is, most of the money gets eaten up in administration, planning, booking, etc. If you had a 100 dollar entry on this purposed tournament, and a 25k first prize, you are most likely talking over two thousand players, possibly more, to get that kind of payday. Something like 250:1 odds on money with a 1:2000 shot to win. It's a bad bet. Sure it's a fun time, but the only person that wins is the house really.

Truly great insights!  I never proposed a $100 tournament.  I gave an example of the Myrtle Beach WorldAm winner.  I think the entry fee was around $500.  The world champ walked away with roughly the equivalent in gift cards, entry fee to next years' tournament, and a trophy.  

But, let's have some fun with the Myrtle Beach WorldAM model / numbers shall we... 

I believe there were around 3,000 entries.  3,000 * $500 = $1.5M in total gross entry fees... Let's say their profit margin is 30%.  So $450,000.  They're not likely going to want to put profits in to a prize pool, so... 

Bump the entry fee to $600.  $100 directly into prize pool for a total $300,000k purse to be divvied up between flight winners and championship round.  World Champ gets 10% of total purse and rest of field flight winners share the remaining $270k 

Just an example.  

Edited by Jay Chizza

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You have to remember, you can only win just so much without bringing scrutiny into the equation and the USGA yanking your amateur status.  A great majority of the people who play in the World Am are not willing to lose their amateur status.  

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1 minute ago, iacas said:

Pretty sure anyone who entered such an event would no longer be an amateur golfer.

Agree totally

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1 minute ago, iacas said:

Pretty sure anyone who entered such an event would no longer be an amateur golfer.

He mentioned that he thought that only 1 percent of golfers participated in USGA sanctioned events, and therefore would not mind this.

8 minutes ago, Jay Chizza said:

Truly great insights!  I never proposed a $100 tournament.  I gave an example of the Myrtle Beach WorldAm winner.  I think the entry fee was around $500.  The world champ walked away with roughly the equivalent in gift cards, entry fee to next years' tournament, and a trophy.  

But, let's have some fun with the Myrtle Beach WorldAM model / numbers shall we... 

I believe there were around 3,000 entries.  3,000 * $1.5M in total gross entry fees... Let's say their profit margin is 30%.  So $450,000 EBITDA.  They're not likely going to want to put profits in to a prize pool, so... 

Bump the entry fee to $600.  $100 directly into prize pool for a total $300,000k purse to be divvied up between flight winners and championship round.  World Champ gets 10% of total purse and rest of field flight winners share the remaining $270k 

Just an example.  

Your example is almost identical to my pool examples. 50:1 odds on money for a 1:3000 shot of being the one lucky guy to get his money back on the trip. I know that it is fairly popular in the pool world, but I don't think that this would be quite as enticing to golfers.

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