It’s really hard to get to the PGA Tour, and even if you’re lucky enough to earn a ticket to the show, the line of players trying to take that ticket away from you and use it for themselves is seemingly endless.
We evaluate careers on money and wins, but how should the career of a player who didn’t win often or at all but was able to play the Tour for a long time be measured? Should a piece of respect be reserved for the player who competes for 10, 15 or 20 years on Tour?
FIRST YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE TOUR
The majority of PGA Tour players have at least some collegiate golf experience. When you combine DI and DII men’s golf, you get around 4,500 players in any given year. If one quarter of those graduate annually, there is an influx of over 1,000 young golfers who could seek a life in professional golf.
While many may not play, consider last year there were 87 All-Americans between DI and DII men’s golf. Good players are coming out every year.
The Web.com Tour is the direct feeder system to the PGA Tour. On average 140 players compete full time during the regular season for 25 Tour cards and another 25 are handed out in the finals series. It’s not easy to get onto the Web; in fact, it’s really hard.
Feeding into the Web.com Tour are the Mackenzie Tour (Canada), PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the PGA Tour-China. The “mini-tours” are still kicking as well. Remember the gut wrenching Q-School for the PGA Tour? Well, that experience has moved to the Web, where in excess of 1,000 players each year try to get onto the tour that is the route to the PGA Tour.
Other prominent tours around world include the European Tour, the Australasian Tour, the Korean Tour and the Japan Golf Tour. While these tours succeed in their own right, many of the best players from these tours either move to the PGA Tour or share time between their home tour and the U.S.
There are literally thousands of players each year aspiring to a life on the PGA Tour.
NOW THAT YOU GOT THERE, CAN YOU STAY THERE?
PGA Tour Makeup
The PGA Tour is made up of about 130 exempt players each year (top 125 and a few other exceptions), plus the conditionally exempt group which includes the 50 card winners from the Web. About 70 players from this group compete in 15 or more events, trying to steal an exempt spot from the 130. A spot won for one player is a spot lost for another.
Basically you have to stay in the top two-thirds on Tour each and every year.
Games are much more fragile than most would think. All it takes is a minor injury, the wrong focus on mechanics, a change in an equipment deal, a change in workout regimen which unknowingly alters the swing, a diet, trouble at home or even just a few missed putts at the wrong time and an exemption can be lost. Tenure on the Tour is not assured and players are lined up trying to take it away from you. Lose your nerve at the wrong time, don’t take advantage of the good week and all of a sudden you’re gone, fighting your way back.
It’s hard to get to the Tour, but it’s also hard to stay on the Tour:
|Years playing Tour||Career starts (assuming 25/year*)|
*Exempt players averaging 25 PGA Tour starts per year.
As you can see, it takes a while to amass a lot of starts.
In all, 324 players have played 250 or more Tour events since 1980. Since it takes so long to accumulate career starts, players who began their career in 2008 or later likely have not made this threshold, yet.
Let’s take a look at some numbers regarding 1980-2008.
How many players were able to get their card during this 28-year period?
The average number of rookies on Tour each year is about 22-23. The remainder of the 70 conditionally exempt players trying to get one of the exempt spots have had their card before.
In an effort to be conservative, I will use 175 players with a card in 1980 and 22 rookies per year since. This means about 791 or roughly 800 players have had their card since 1980.
That’s 800 out of the thousands and thousands to have tried over that 28 year period to get a PGA tour card. This alone is an accomplishment; they’ve been to the show.
With respect to the 800 card holders, consider the following graph: 1980 to the present, ranked by career starts:
|Number of career starts||Number of players (N)||Percentage (N/800)*|
*Represents the percentage of the 800 card-bearing players with this many career starts or more.
# Note: This does not include other major tour starts.
## Note: Several of the older players competed prior to 1980; these starts are not included
Click here if you want to see the full list of players, Nos. 1-324, who have made 250 career starts during this 1980-2008 period.
I'm proud to be Journeyman No. 123.