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How Do PGA Pro Am Tournaments Work?

by Jim Thomas
    Jim Furyk was disqualified from a tournament in 2010 for missing his pro-am starting time.

    Jim Furyk was disqualified from a tournament in 2010 for missing his pro-am starting time.

    David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

    PGA pro-ams usually are a win-win-win situation for ordinary golfers, the PGA Tour and the charity or charities connected with the tournament. Ordinary golfers get to play with a tour player and sometimes a celebrity as well. The PGA Tour and the tournament organizers rake in big bucks, and a large chunk of that money goes to charity. Most pro-ams are one-day affairs that are played on Wednesday, one day before the PGA Tour event starts.

    Costs

    Except for a few events, such as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -- which has a waiting list -- it's easy to play in a PGA pro-am. It's expensive, too, although the weeklong schedule for some PGA Tour events also includes a Monday pro-am that is less expensive than those conducted on Wednesday. The PGA Tour players who play in the Monday events are not as well-known as those who play on Wednesday. By 2007, most pro-ams -- according to an article on the website World Golf -- were already charging $4,000 to $5,000 to tee it up. A 2011 tournament in Phoenix charged $4,300 for the Monday pro-am and $9,500 for the main event on Wednesday. The entry fee for the 2011 AT&T was $25,000, according to "Forbes" magazine.

    Pro-Am Day

    At a typical pro-am, the pro and four amateur partners compete as a best-ball fivesome, with the amateurs using their handicaps. Using this format, birdies are commonplace and the team score is often below 60. At some events, the teams use a scramble format, selecting the best drive, best second shot, and so on until the ball is in the hole. A lavish party and the awarding of prizes usually follows the event on Wednesday night.

    Revenues

    As the "Florida Times Union" reported, pro-ams provide a profitable revenue stream for a PGA Tour event. If 208 amateurs each pay an entry fee of $5,000, the tournament rakes in over $1 million. This revenue helps put a tournament in the black, which enables it to donate more money to charity. One indication of the importance of pro-ams to the PGA Tour was the disqualification of Jim Furyk from a tournament in 2010 for oversleeping and missing his pro-am tee time.

    Considerations

    In an article posted on Golf.com in 2008, CBS golf commentator David Feherty offered pro-am contestants tips on how to make their pro-am experience as enjoyable as possible. He advised hiring a caddie whose tour player isn't playing in the pro-am. You'll know exactly how far you are from the target on every shot. Be ready to hit. Pro-ams can take forever, or at least seem that way, so help keep your group moving along. Turn off your cellphone. Stay out the line of your pro on the greens. Most of all, try to relax and not worry about your terrible shots. You'll be nervous on the first tee, but it's almost certain that your pro has seen worse golfers than you. So socialize with your group and enjoy the day.

    About the Author

    Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

    Photo Credits

    • David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images