What do you do when you’re a low handicapper hungering for real competition? You’re too good for the usual sandbagging club events, but don’t have an opportunity to play in USGA Amateur and Open events, which are dominated by pros or by college level pros-in-training. Chances are, you have a 9-5 job and can’t dedicate your life to the game.
The answer: You play in specifically designated third-party (non USGA) scratch tournaments. According to Golf World’s Jamie Diaz, there is a growing movement of scratch tournaments across the country, in which very good, and serious amateurs gather to compete. These events could someday return top amateur golf to the point where it was some fifty years ago, when people with real jobs and real lives actually had a role in competition golf.
That era passed for a lot of reasons. Good amateurs lost the run of the courses as facilities grew more crowded and expensive to play. The pro game became more emphasized, enticing the best amateurs at a younger age and taking some of the mystique away from homegrown hotshots. Local events lost their importance, and the amateur scene became centered on a few national and statewide events. Most of all, top college players began to dominate elite amateur events. In last year’s U.S. Amateur Public Links (a championship specifically designed for the blue-collar amateur) only one non-high school player or collegian reached the round of 16.
I can’t help but think that these days, there would be no place for Bobby Jones. In today’s environment, he would have to satisfy his desire for competition with club championships. Or given, the lack of opportunity for real competition, he might lose interest altogether. These new high level competitions offer something the USGA doesn’t.
I hope these organizations succeed. In fact, what I’d like to see is that twenty years from now, one of these has gone national and is challenging the USGA for the hearts and minds of America’s true amateur golfers.