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"giving the mini tours a try"/the new dead money


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Recently I listened to the "Local Knowledge" podcast by Golf Digest about how players need financial backing to get to the PGA Tour. They discussed how around the year 2000 there was a lot more dead money on the mini tours, basically guys who had no shot at breaking 80 but wanted to say they played in the tourney. 

 

From where I grew up, within the past year or two, there have been close to 10 guys trying to give the tour a run, through various mini tours with varying success. Some guys got Korn Ferry cards, others are on mini tours. Between that and following the "Monday Q Info" account on twitter, I started to look more at the mini tours and adjacent tours. Specifically, I've been following qualifying for PGA Canada this week. I'm look at some of the scores between qualifying this week and other weeks, and to bring this all together,  it looks there are way less guys going out and shooting 90 just to say they did it, but a lot more guys who can shoot 69 at their home course, but still have no chance. I know players go through slumps, but when you're in a second tour qualifying event, and you get beat by 25-30 strokes over 4 rounds by numerous players, are you thinking you just need more practice? In my head, I know a player has to give it a shot, but isn't there a point where they think I'm a really good golf, just not good enough to make a living out of it? I remember when Patrick Cantlay was an amateur, he shot 60 in a PGA event; you knew he could bring the heat. It just seems to me some guys are going out to events hoping they will magically shoot 5 shots lower; almost as if you can run a 4.8 40 yard dash, but hope somehow you show up at the combine and somehow run a 4.4. 

 

Don't know if anyone has tried doing this, or knows someone, but would like to hear everyone's thoughts. 

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Thought about it after college, but ultimately knew I wasn't quite on the level of the tour guys. I have some friends trying out the mini tours now, some minorly successful, others not so much. 

 

A lot of these kids have financial backing and a job to fall back on if they don't make it. So they figure, "why not?"

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I've witnessed a few guys go broke on mini tours.  You are basically gambling your own money that you can crack top 3 because anything less than that and you are losing money most times.  Now with COVID i'm not sure how many mini tours are stil even surviving.   I had one friend who would be your "dead money" guy. He thought because he shot even one time he could make money on the mini tour.  He played in a handful of egolf / tarheel tour events and never made anything.  Another guy who was a decent college player lost alot of his inheritance on the same tour.  He had decent game but, would put zero work into it.  He just laid around most of the day smoking pot and playing video games.  If he had a decent work ethic he may could have done something but, instead just pissed money away for 2 years then finally gave up.

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I think most people just have a really hard time giving it up. They may play well in one or two events and keep chasing that feeling because they think they can do it again. A lot of them also don't really have a backup plan so it's either keep trying to make it as a golfer or settle for an entry level job when all of your age peers are moving up in successful careers.

 

Several teammates I had in college (DI school) tried to make it as a pro. None of them succeeded and now they are all either working at somewhere like GolfTec or as an Assistant Coach at some DII school. Those of us that didn't try to go pro all now have successful and financially rewarding careers in business, medicine, law, etc. On the rare occasion we all are around each other again I can tell it's tough on those guys seeing the quality of life we have now compared to theirs.

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20 minutes ago, Abh159 said:

I think most people just have a really hard time giving it up. They may play well in one or two events and keep chasing that feeling because they think they can do it again. A lot of them also don't really have a backup plan so it's either keep trying to make it as a golfer or settle for an entry level job when all of your age peers are moving up in successful careers.

 

Several teammates I had in college (DI school) tried to make it as a pro. None of them succeeded and now they are all either working at somewhere like GolfTec or as an Assistant Coach at some DII school. Those of us that didn't try to go pro all now have successful and financially rewarding careers in business, medicine, law, etc. On the rare occasion we all are around each other again I can tell it's tough on those guys seeing the quality of life we have now compared to theirs.

I could see that. I know a lot of guys who played on my team in high school and college who knew they couldn't crack it as a touring pro basically do the same thing. 

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It’s expensive that for sure, and that’s just the golf let alone living expenses.

 

I played on a UK mini tour for a couple of years, a long time ago. It’s very different having to play well 2-3 or 4 days in a row. Having a good round/day is no use. 
 

I was lucky enough to be paired with a few guys that went on to win on the European Tour. Combining that with hearing about guys  who were massively in debt and paying their entry fees on credit cards. I knew it was time to do something else.

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8 minutes ago, Bye said:

It’s expensive that for sure, and that’s just the golf let alone living expenses.

 

I played on a UK mini tour for a couple of years, a long time ago. It’s very different having to play well 2-3 or 4 days in a row. Having a good round/day is no use. 
 

I was lucky enough to be paired with a few guys that went on to win on the European Tour. Combining that with hearing about guys  who were massively in debt and paying their entry fees on credit cards. I knew it was time to do something else.

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50 minutes ago, exgolfpro said:

I used to be one of those guys.  I never played may events (2 Hooters tour events), but always thought, if I played my best golf, I could make some money.  But, I never played my best golf.  Posted a few 75's and knew I didn't have what it took.  The funny thing is, I am now 54 and still cant let go of the dream.  Every spring I consider getting back into tournament golf, but the truth is, i'm 10 shots from where i need to be to be competitive.  

Yes, but you realized it after 2 events. 

 

Some of the guys from my town have been at it 1-1.5 years, haven't won anything major, maybe have had one or rounds of 67 in a tournament. I guess that keeps you coming back? Maybe they're keep chasing until you find something that works?  

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19 minutes ago, Ironman_32 said:

Yes, but you realized it after 2 events. 

 

Some of the guys from my town have been at it 1-1.5 years, haven't won anything major, maybe have had one or rounds of 67 in a tournament. I guess that keeps you coming back? Maybe they're keep chasing until you find something that works?  

 

1 - 1 1/2 years is nothing. I've known guys that tried it for 4-5+ years. Go out to a mini-tour event now (anything below Korn Ferry) and you'll see just as many 30-35 year olds as you will 25 year olds.

 

Some people are smart enough to realize that living out of your car or relying on your parents to fund your endeavors isn't exactly a good life. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other who never realize that. 

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The best player in my state was an all American in college but went into banking. He won the state am 5 or 6 times tried the senior tour at 50. He got through one stage of qualifying. He played in a few Nike tour events. I asked him once what the difference was between his game and pros. For him it was short game. He said pros just don’t waste a shot. He was and is a remarkable ball striker. But his chipping and putting were never that level consistently.  I think people never realize how good you have to be everyday to shoot the scores necessary to make a living competing in golf. 
if I took my best scores I ever shot adjusted for slope and course rating I would be lucky to cash a check and I was a +4.5 at one time. It is just another level that even skilled players cannot sustain.

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The longest player I've ever seen was also a good all-around player. He even won the TN State Am one year. The only way he made it to the PGA Tour was on the bag of his buddy Heath Slocum. 🙂

 

I've played in pro-am rounds with guys on the Nationwide Tour and picked their brains a bit. Even got to play with Esteban Toledo in one, and he's got a pretty good career resume. 

 

These guys all pretty much tell the same story: everyone playing at the professional level can hit the ball. They all have every shot imaginable. Great short games, any kind of recovery shot, you name it. So the tournaments ultimately become a putting contest. The 8-10 guys who're hitting the ball best that week are in the hunt, and the one who makes the most putts usually wins. 

 

One struggling Nationwide Tour player explained how that dynamic puts pressure on the rest of his game. He said if you accept that making putts is the goal, and accept that not many long putts are going in the hole, then you must also accept that you need your approaches to be closer to the hole. Getting your approaches closer depends on having scoring clubs in your hand, preferably from the fairway. That puts pressure on your tee game. It's a minefield for anyone who is not totally in command of his mental game. 

 

The other thing that seems to be true is that every level below the PGA Tour requires a more aggressive approach to succeed. If there are 80 guys playing in a Monday qualifier for 3 spots, you have to be very aggressive. If you want to win/place/show on the lower tour, you have to be really aggressive. If you want to Monday qualify for a spot on THAT tour you better be SUPER aggressive. And that trickles down and down through each level. As someone said, mini tour events pay three places, so a top five can cost you money. 

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Ive spoken to an inspiring mini tour player and to say it is a grind is true. No one to pay for entry fees and usually the purses are very small. For those lucky enough to be picked up by a sponsor are either already on their way already or know someone close enough to get it. Usually it is family or friends who back these players up and of course, they have some sort of day job to make ends meet. The cream of the cream usually is already on the bigger mini tours while those aspiring ride the gauntlet until they run out funds. 

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Tangent, but related...did anyone else hear the story about the investment fund that stands to get a $30MM payday from that player who just signed the long-term deal with the Padres? 

An ex-player started an investment fund that "invests" in minor league players by giving them money to survive on. If they never make it to the big leagues they don't have to pay it back, but the investment fund gets 10% of any and all MLB contracts signed after a player gets called up. 

 

The same thing exists in golf, obviously. I know a lot of private clubs will organize members to invest in any player from their club who tries to play professionally. 

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5 minutes ago, Rob G 89 said:

Tangent question is it poor taste to play an event if you are poor player? I mean you are Paying an entry fee or is it an unwritten rule not to play if you are shooting 80 plus?

 

IMO yes, if you're talking about a real mini tour event. You're likely to be a real distraction to the other guys in your group who may well be playing for their gas money. 

Now if it's a local golf assn event with an open entry, go for it! You'll learn a ton about how your game holds up under pressure. But don't enter an event where professional golfers are playing for money. 

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15 minutes ago, me05501 said:

 

IMO yes, if you're talking about a real mini tour event. You're likely to be a real distraction to the other guys in your group who may well be playing for their gas money. 

Now if it's a local golf assn event with an open entry, go for it! You'll learn a ton about how your game holds up under pressure. But don't enter an event where professional golfers are playing for money. 

That and it can hold up the field. At Mackenzie/PGA Canada qualifying this week, one got shot a 52 for nine holds, including a quad and 3 doubles. Just imagine you're out there grinding, and someone else is, im assuming, having to search for balls or re-tee on every hole. 

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37 minutes ago, me05501 said:

The longest player I've ever seen was also a good all-around player. He even won the TN State Am one year. The only way he made it to the PGA Tour was on the bag of his buddy Heath Slocum. 🙂

 

I've played in pro-am rounds with guys on the Nationwide Tour and picked their brains a bit. Even got to play with Esteban Toledo in one, and he's got a pretty good career resume. 

 

These guys all pretty much tell the same story: everyone playing at the professional level can hit the ball. They all have every shot imaginable. Great short games, any kind of recovery shot, you name it. So the tournaments ultimately become a putting contest. The 8-10 guys who're hitting the ball best that week are in the hunt, and the one who makes the most putts usually wins. 

 

One struggling Nationwide Tour player explained how that dynamic puts pressure on the rest of his game. He said if you accept that making putts is the goal, and accept that not many long putts are going in the hole, then you must also accept that you need your approaches to be closer to the hole. Getting your approaches closer depends on having scoring clubs in your hand, preferably from the fairway. That puts pressure on your tee game. It's a minefield for anyone who is not totally in command of his mental game. 

 

The other thing that seems to be true is that every level below the PGA Tour requires a more aggressive approach to succeed. If there are 80 guys playing in a Monday qualifier for 3 spots, you have to be very aggressive. If you want to win/place/show on the lower tour, you have to be really aggressive. If you want to Monday qualify for a spot on THAT tour you better be SUPER aggressive. And that trickles down and down through each level. As someone said, mini tour events pay three places, so a top five can cost you money. 

That's a good assessment. I've seen some mini tour events, some that are 2-3 days, and you have to go pretty deep under par to win; even par over 3 days wouldn't do anything. It just seems to me that guys who have the gear to shoot even over three days are playing as well, almost as if they expect to show up and somehow go 4 strokes lower each day. 

 

Idk, I guess some guys are really affected by the pressure? I mean like 10 shots affected. 

 

I imagine most guys giving the mini tours a shot have to be at least positive handicaps? You would think they would play enough to where they could somewhat deal with the pressure. 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, b.helts said:

 

Yes sir. And to further the point, I don't think any minitours would continue to exist if it weren't for the donors that pay their entry fees and have no chance at making money.

Yep the more entries the more money the top 3 make and the tour makes more on their 10 to 15 % cut off the top. I know sevearl players on the Sunbelt Senior Tour that have money that play just to play some of the courses everywhere to say they played those courses since that tour has really expanded outside the Southeast and even the USA. And if one looks at that tour you will see some familiar names in the top ranks.

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I have been around mini tour players for quite some time, and the biggest problem I see is that most do not have a back up plan, or even a sound business plan, all they know is to play golf, but most dont know how to make a living in the golf business, whether that is putting time being on staff somewhere or putting in long hours teaching others which cuts into their own practice time..They all hope to land that sponsorship and of course the sponsors are all excited  for the initial investment, but that first year flies by, and usually its a losing proposition and nothing more than a tax write off and sponsors are reluctant to throw away discretionary income once again for little to zero ROI...

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In order to really be able to compete as a pro, you have to be shooting in mid-60s nearly every time you tee it up on your home course (nearly blind-folded) that is over 7000 yards and a difficult track. Even the mini-tours have notable names now. On the Golden Tour (California) Matt Gogel in on the money list. One PGA tour win and 6 Nike tour wins. So, you are competing against guys like that. 

 

However, the mini-tours don't really care if players are not up to par to compete because they just look at them as "donations". The more players coughing up the entry fees, the better for the mini tours. Generally the mini-tours are lacking of players and money.

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I have a friend and client of mine who plays on the Mackenzie tour.  He broke his back last year when he fell out of a chopper and had to have surgery.  He was back to playing after 10 weeks.  He's a +3 handicap atm.  He's not one of those guys that have to play for their lively hood.  He's a trust fund kid who happens to be a really good golfer.  He told me he is seriously considering retirement and moving to New Zealand next year once the pandemic is over.  Got another buddy who currently works for the SCGA who went to Q-School 4 times.  He's a +4 and has played on the mini tours for 3 years.  He actually makes more money doing what he does now and only plays in amateur tournaments.  He's played with Bryson and Xander when they were both amateurs. 

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21 minutes ago, tacklingdummy said:

In order to really be able to compete as a pro, you have to be shooting in mid-60s nearly every time you tee it up on your home course (nearly blind-folded) that is over 7000 yards and a difficult track. Even the mini-tours have notable names now. On the Golden Tour (California) Matt Gogel in on the money list. One PGA tour win and 6 Nike tour wins. So, you are competing against guys like that. 

 

However, the mini-tours don't really care if players are not up to par to compete because they just look at them as "donations". The more players coughing up the entry fees, the better for the mini tours. Generally the mini-tours are lacking of players and money.

I get that. I asking whats in your mindset if your shooting like 69-70 at your home course, then going and getting smoked at mini tour events. I guess you just keep going? I'm looking at these Canada PGA tour scores, some guys are making 4,5,6 bogeys a side. Maybe you're games out of whack, idk, to me it would seem so far from where I would want to be. But as stated above, maybe its just a lot of guys messing around during practice and not caring what they shoot. 

 

I know the tours themselves dont care, it's like when a gym sells you a membership, they don't care if you use it they just want the cash.

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