A report in The Buffalo News reiterates the concerns of Porter Cup tournament director Steve Denn on the changing face of high-level amateur golf. Professional tournaments, unable to offer appearance fees to golfers in the USA, instead are inviting amateur golfers (who may receive up to 7 sponsor exemptions per year) with the hope of earning cache when the amateurs make it big as professionals.
Jay Skurski cites the Webb Simpson-Travelers Championship example, as well as the Children’s Hospital Invitational on the Web.Com (formerly Nationwide) Tour as examples of this trend. Denn delivered his concern last Tuesday at Porter Cup media day, an annual event that precedes the playing of the tournament. He noted that media day was earlier than usual because the tournament has earlier dates this year.
One of Steve Denn’s concerns was the truncation of the amateur golf circuit schedule. The influence of college classes, college football and NCAA spring golf have all conspired to shorten the summer amateur circuit by two to three weeks. What this means is, top-notch tournaments that used to own a week are now forced to share their weeks with other events. In addition, new events have sprung up, constricting the schedule even more.
Take a look at the past four weeks on the Scratch Players calendar and you’ll understand better:
June 17-23~Rice Planters, Northeast and Greystone (not to mention state amateur championships of Florida, Oregon, Missouri, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan
June 24-30~Dogwood Invitational (and state amateur championships of Virginia, Tennessee and California)
July 1-8~North & South, Sahalee Players, Spirit of America
July 9-16~Trans-Miss, USGA Public Links, Players, Eastern, Pacific Northwest (coupled with the Carolinas and state championships of Ohio, Massachusetts and Georgia.)
Ten years ago, at least five of these events didn’t exist. Players like Duke Delcher competed in events like the Porter Cup and asked “why can’t we have an event like this one at home?” Now we have the Players, the Sahalee Players, the Spirit of America, the Greystone, the Oglethorpe and the list goes on.
Other than the Dogwood, no event enjoys a competition-free week. Last week was fraught with events-5 invitationals and 1 national championship. In the case of the tours, seldom will we see Jordan Spieth play an amateur event, beyond the Western and the US Amateur. Spieth will probably not see day 1 of his junior year at the University of Texas. Most likely, he will follow Patrick Cantlay’s lead. Cantlay proclaimed for all to hear that he would finish four years at UCLA; he turned pro less than a month ago, between his sophomore and junior years.
The youth movement has arrived in golf. It was seen a few years back on the LPGA tour, where teenagers petition the commissioner for the right to earn a card. The Lexi Thompsons, Michelle Wies and Morgan Pressels are either skipping college golf or skipping college all together, to play professionally. Should the men’s…err, boy’s game be any different?
My guess is that Steve Denn and the Porter Cup will always have a quality field. They may not have all of the top ten players on the rankings list, but they will have enough to preserve the character of the event as the top medal play event on the amateur circuit. Change is the only certainty, so stay ahead of its curve!