How did these players get on the PGA Tour.
By. John K. Abendroth, PGA
With all the talk about Greg Norman and the Saudi backed LIV golf tour it reminds me of various methods to keep players on the PGA Tour or for players to gain access to play over the years.
Up to about 1970 members of the PGA of America (The Club Pros) had easy access to qualify to play in PGA Tour events then just about that time the Tournament Players Division was formed which them became The PGA Tour. Around this time the Qualifying Tournament (Q-School) was formed to gain access to the tour for non-PGA members.
Over the years, various rules were put in place such as playing a minimum of 15 events per year to retain PGA Tour privileges which related much to foreign players who would come in for a few events during the year. Another rule in place for a few years required exempt players to play in each tournament on the schedule within a 3-year time frame. For example, Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson could not avoid a lesser tournament but the fans in those cities got to see all the greats within a 3-year period. This regulation did not last very long.
Up to the late 1970’s the top 60 money winners on the PGA Tour were exempt to each event the following year. In those days with 144 players typically in an event, the balance of the players came from several sources. Make the cut the week before, be one of about 8 invitations or go through Monday qualifying. Now a top 10 finish gets a player into the following week, but a made cut does not give access to the next event.
Any declared professional golfer or amateur with a low handicap paid a small fee to enter a one-day event to earn a spot in that week’s event. There was a big variance in spots available, some weeks 100 players tried for 40 spots, and other weeks it could be 60 players for 2 or 3 spots. Over the years this has evolved where now there is a pre-qualifier to get to Monday to try for 4 prized spots. One other access was that if you were in the top 25 in a specific event you were exempt for that event the following year.
Late in the 1970’s the “all exempt” tour evolved that now has 125 players able to play the following season and the regular number of 4 spots available each week.
In a second part of this I will write about changes to the Q-School which now only gives access to the Korn Ferry Tour, which is basically a minor league which is the path to gain access to the PGA tour. Books have been written about Q-School and I feel I could write one as I attended 5 times gaining access to the PGA Tour twice...great memories some great some great fear.