What defines a professional or an amateur golfer

What defines a professional or an amateur golfer

What defines a professional or an amateur golfer

Professional golfers rake in millions as their amateur counterparts watch
In golf the distinction between amateurs and professionals is rigorously maintained. An amateur who plays for money even once usually loses his or her amateur status permanently and is banned from all amateur tournaments. A professional may not play in amateur tournaments. It is very difficult for a professional to regain his or her amateur status; simply agreeing not to take payment for a particular tournament isn't enough.
But what defines an amateur and professional golf player? Amateurs, as they are popularly known, are not allowed to participate in tournaments with prize money. Professional players, on the other hand, are smiling all the way to the bank as they reap millions of dollars in tours around the world. High profile professional golfers earn a living from playing in tournaments, what are referred to as invitational or tours. Tiger Woods, the top professional, earned a whopping U$110 million from prize money and product endorsements in 2009. In Kenya, Dismas Indiza is the top male professional golfer while Rose Naliaka leads the lady’s roster.

The Kenyan pros and amateurs participate in various tournaments locally and abroad. Local amateurs hunt for points in various tournaments across the country. These are aggregated for the Golfer of The Year (GOTY) ranking at the end of the year. Pros take part in the lucrative KCB Pro-Am series. The series are held in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania before culminating in a grand finale in Nyali Golf Club, Mombasa. Golfers from as far as South Africa and Zambia will take part in this year’s series.

Historically, the distinction between amateur and professional golfers had much to do with social class. In 18th and 19th century Britain golf was played by the rich for pleasure. Ironically, early professionals came from the lesser working class men who made a living from various activities at the course. These activities include from caddying, clubmaking and playing challenge matches. The game was exported to the US and there too it was for the elite. Professional golfers from Britain formed the early golf clubs in America.  Big money did not happen until sometime into 20th century. Walter Hagen, a top American golfer who won 11 majors, is sometime credited to have been the first man to make it big in money-spinning pro golf.

There is another category of professional players who make their living from teaching the game and running golf clubs and courses. There is golf director whose work entails running golf club and course. Top golf courses in Kenya like Muthaiga and Windsor Golf clubs have residential golf directors. Golf instructors give lessons to beginners and some amateurs.

On the other hand amateur golfers have lower handicap and are strictly forbidden to playing in any tournament with monetary prize. They don’t receive any financial endorsement. Kenya is currently the Africa champions after their amateur players edged out their South African counterparts in Gaborone, Botswana. The team composed of Sullivan Muthugia (Thika), Stefan Andersen,Collins Omondi, Nelson Mudanyi (all of Muthaiga) and Francis Kimani (Limuru). Others in the team were Boniface Simwab and Ali Orende who are based at Vet Lab Golf Club.

Class distinction is entirely irrelevant in the developed world. Golf is now available to a large population and most top professionals come from middle class backgrounds. Tournament golf has produced wealthy individuals with top players like Phil Mickelson, Brian Davies, Woods and Mariah Stackhouse raking in millions of dollars annually. Kenya’s top professional golfers pale against their most illustrious counterparts from the the developed countries. Dismas Indiza tops the money list with Ricard Ainley and Jacob Okello ranking third and fourth.

The national amateur team coach Ali Kimani is fourth while Simon Ngigi completes the top five local pros.
However, in developing nations class is more pronounced. Golf is still confined to a smaller and more elite section of the society. Interestingly, top professional golfers in some of these countries are from poor backgrounds. They have risen through the ranks, some from caddies, to world’s top professionals. Angela Cabrera from Argentina and Zhang Lian-wei, the first significant tournament professional from China, are best examples.    
Probably you might be wondering if these two categories belong to same bodies. In most countries, professional Golfers’ Associations (PGA) serves both categories.  There is a separate Ladies PGA (LPGAs) for women. In Kenya, Kenya Golf Union (KGU) headed by Samson Ndegwa is the parent body.  Amarjeet Patel heads Kenya Ladies Golf Union (KLGU). President Mwai Kibaki, a keen golfer, is the patron of the two bodies.

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