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Rules of Golf by Ryan Farb, PGA O > >

How to Keep and Regain Amateur Status

ne of the greatest traditions in golf is the prominence of the amateur, who plays the game solely for the enjoyment of its

competitive nature and does not play for prize money. However, there are certain nuances to the Rules of Ama- teur Status that allow amateurs to win prizes, provided they stay within the guidelines. This article will go through some of the questions about the Rules of Amateur Status with regard to cash, prizes and gambling that we are frequently asked. Cash

Amateur golfers are not permitted

to play for cash prizes of any amount. For any tournament or formal compe- tition, the prize awarded for placing in the competition must NOT be issued in cash. There are, however, plenty of acceptable forms of prizes (see prize vouchers below). Open Competitions

As we see in the major Open

championships and other professional events, playing in a competition where prize money is offered is not a breach of Amateur Status, provided the golfer waives his right to accept prize money prior to the start of the com- petition. One of the greatest examples of this is the 1913 U.S. Open won by Francis Ouimet, who played as an amateur and had waived his right to accept any prize money. Harry Vardon and Ted Ray shared low professional honors, but finished second and third in the playoff, earning $300 and $150 respectively. Prizes

> Prizes that conform to the Rules

include prize vouchers and merchan- dise. Prize vouchers can include gift certificates, merchandise certificates, gift cards (provided they are not converted to cash), and even club ac- count credit. Amateur golfers may also accept retail merchandise as prizes. If there is a question about the retail value of the merchandise, it is the re-

64 / NCGA.ORG / SPRING 2015

sponsibility of the com- mittee to prove that it conforms to the accept- able prize limits. Provided the total prize vouchers and merchandise received in a competition (including closest to the hole or long drive contests) are not in excess of $750, these forms of prizes are acceptable for amateur competitions. Hole-in-One Prizes A large prize for a hole-in-one that is incidental to the round of golf (this would not apply to con- tests where players receive multiple attempts or on a practice range) is an exception to the $750 prize limit. If an amateur is fortunate enough to make a hole-in-one on a hole where a significant prize is awarded (includ- ing cash) Rule 3-2b of the Rules of Amateur Status allows an amateur to accept that prize. Now all you have to do is make an ace! Symbolic Prizes The limit on the retail value of a

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prize or prize voucher does not mean that competitions are prohibited from awarding trophies or medals made of gold, silver, glass or the like. These symbolic awards must be distinctively and permanently engraved, but may be valued above the $750 limit. Gambling and Skins The sole Appendix to the Rules


of Amateur Status relates to the USGA policy on gambling. It lists the acceptable forms of gambling, as well as types of gambling that would be considered a breach of Amateur Status. We receive many questions about offering cash for skins games or other optional contests. In these specific cases, cash prizes that are not considered excessive are permissible, provided that the skins or contest is optional, all the money is put forth by the player, and the play- ers generally know each other. The

Prominent NCGA amateur Gary Vanier once played as a professional. He regained his amateur status and became the first player to win the California State Amateur (1982) and State Senior (2007).

Rules of Amateur Status

as approved by the United States Golf Association and the R&A Rules Limited

expectation is that the amounts won in optional cash games should not be significantly greater than the prize vouchers or merchandise prizes to be awarded. Note that an organized event designed or promoted to create cash prizes is not permitted, even if it appears to otherwise meet the requirements of acceptable gambling.

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