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Am vs. Pro: Declaring status

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In lieu of a T-21 finish at the U.S. Open and a record-breaking 60 Friday at the Travelers Championship, Patrick Cantlay, 19, may want to reconsider his decision to stay amateur and finish out his four years at UCLA. Cantlay is out of luck – and a check – this week, but Randall Mell and Jason Sobel debate whether amateur players should be allowed to declare professional status after a tournament has already started.

By RANDALL MELL

No! Mulligans are an assault on the integrity of the game.

That’s essentially what you would be giving amateurs if you allowed them to retroactively declare themselves professionals after a tournament has started, especially after they’ve won, or know they'll finish high enough to collect a big paycheck.

Allowing players to improve their lies also violates the integrity of the game. That’s basically what you would be allowing amateurs to do if you allow them to change their status to professional after a tournament’s begun.

By allowing amateurs to retroactively declare themselves pros, you’re allowing them to play by a different set of rules from the pros they’re trying to beat.

You’re allowing them to play from a different set of tees emotionally and psychologically.

It wouldn’t be fair.

Because most professionals will tell you the nature of the game radically changes when you turn pro and begin playing for money. The pressure ratchets up exponentially. There’s a lot more to choke for when you’re a pro than when you’re an amateur. If you’re standing over a 5-foot putt knowing the difference between third and fourth place is $100,000, it’s a lot different than standing over that putt as an amateur.


By JASON SOBEL

Yes, amateurs should be allowed to turn professional prior to any tournament round, not just prior to the event itself.

So far, the only reason I’ve heard in favor of keeping the status quo is because, well, it’s always been that way, so there’s no point in changing the rule.

Actually, there is a point. We’ve seen more amateurs contend and win professional events in recent years that they should be able to exercise such an option once they climb the leaderboard. Just in the last few seasons, Pablo Martin, Shane Lowry and Danny Lee on the European Tour and Russell Henley on the Nationwide circuit have all earned first-place paychecks without ever seeing the bottom line in their bank accounts.

And now Patrick Cantlay finds himself in the same position. After firing a 10-under 60 and leading the Travelers Championship, the UCLA rising sophomore can play carefree golf knowing the spoils of victory aren’t at stake.

He should be able to forgo those final three years of college and a potential spot on the Walker Cup team should he choose. It’s a risk, sure, but isn’t any career decision? At least it would be his choice, rather being at the mercy of the current rule.

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