Poker player sues USGA for amateur status


PORTLAND, Ore. ' Dusty Schmidt just wants to compete as an amateur golfer. The U.S. Golf Association maintains that the online poker player gave up his amateur status when he threw down a $1 million challenge to anyone who could beat him at 72 holes of golf and at poker.
Now its up to a judge to decide.
Schmidt has filed a complaint seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow him to keep his amateur status with the USGA and play in a series of events in the Pacific Northwest. A hearing in the matter is scheduled for Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
While Schmidt portrays himself as an innocent victim who simply wants to compete in the sport he loves, the USGA claims in court documents that he is a self-promoter who flouted the rules for amateur status with his golf-and-poker challenge.
At the end of the day, Im trying to get my amateur status back. I am trying to fight for my right NOT to make money playing golf, basically, he said. I just want to play golf, and I believe I should be allowed to play golf.
Schmidt was a promising young golfer in Southern California who turned pro after a year at UC Irvine. His career ended, stunningly, when he had a heart attack at age 23.
During his rehabilitation, Schmidt took up online poker. At one point, down to his last $1,000, he decided to go for broke ' literally.
In retelling his story, Schmidt acknowledges that he may sound too much like a problem gambler, but he had a plan he figured would work. By playing 400 hours in the first month, he kept his $1,000 and earned some $8,000 in credits to allow him to keep going. The next month, he did better, and then better again.
Schmidt, now 28, estimates hes made $3 million gambling online and live a comfortable lifestyle. But what he says he really wants to do is play golf competitively.
Schmidt asked for, and regained, his amateur status. In May, he qualified to play in the Oregon Amateur, held last month in Bandon, Ore. But he never went.
The USGA revoked his amateur status on June 11 when they got wind of the Million Dollar Challenge that Schmidt was proposed in April through a Web site he co-owns, The challenge was also the subject of a press release.
The USGA informed Schmidt he could apply to have his status reinstated, but he says that the process wasnt timely enough because of the registration fees hed already paid to compete in events over the summer.
The crux of Schmidts argument is that no one took him up on the challenge, so it is moot.
A spokesman for the USGA said the organization does not comment on current or pending litigation.
In court documents, the USGA maintains that Schmidts challenge was violated a rule aimed at actions detrimental to the best interests of the amateur game, and another related to gambling and the spirit of the rules.
Having promoted his prize money golf/poker contest for two months and having obtained tremendous publicity for himself, his entrepreneurial Web site and his prize money scheme, Mr. Schmidt cannot unring the bell no matter how hard he tries, the USGA said in court documents.
Schmidt, who plans to represent himself Monday, realizes the odds are against him.
I consider myself a golfer that more or less stumbled into this poker thing, and along the way picked up what I believe are these misconceptions about who I am and what I do, he said. I think that doesnt sit well with the USGA.