"The trouble with the pursuit of a dream like this one is that too often emotions are dictating the decision about turning pro without recognizing the real cost of the decision."
The time has finally come and you have decided that you want to play golf on a pro tour because you feel that have acquired enough experience playing amateur tournaments and you want to earn an income playing for pay in the pro ranks.
That’s great, but how are you going to achieve this goal. Yes you have assessed the criteria and checked that your handicap is low enough to enter a tour school and now you want your chance to earn a tour card.
The Rookie Review Process
But are you really ready for this step up to the pro leagues?
How do you know that you are ready?
Are you a good enough golfer?
How will you fund your venture?
Have you been saving your pennies for a long time - or are your parents helping you to fund it?
Or maybe you have a sponsor waiting in the wings?
In today’s article we are going to help you to answer these questions by going through what we call "the rookie review process" which is a simple analysis that helps you to know up front the real cost of playing golf on a pro tour.
So to start with we want you to imagine that you have to prepare a presentation for a potential sponsor who has expressed an interest in funding your tour quest for 1 year, and if you perform well enough she is willing to sponsor you for at least 2 more seasons.
However this will only happen if you can convince her that you have the ability to generate sufficient income to pay her back.
She has asked you to prepare a basic outline of costs associated with this venture to determine its viability, and once this has been completed you will present your findings.
You have been asked to focus on four factors;
1. Calculate the full cost of competing on a major pro tour for a full season
2. Work out a daily budget for competing on tour
3. Determine the minimum playing standard for earning a consistent income
4. Determine the 'break even' number
With this information it will be easier to determine whether this is a viable path to the pro tour, or for you to look at other options.
Below you will see that we have presented a table describing a hypothetical situation where a young female golfer has gone through qualifying to get onto the 2013 Ladies European Tour (LET).
We are going to look at the cost of playing on this tour with realistic budgets, and we will also determine the playing standard this golfer will require to break even on the tour.
Best Case - Worst Case Scenario
We want you to keep in mind that in the following example our hypothetical golfer makes every cut and earned the last place check in every event.
We call this the best case-worst case scenario - Best case scenario is you make every cut (which is unlikely), and the worst case scenario - the golfer earns the last place check in every event (also unlikely).
We are doing it this way to look at what this level of playing standard produces in terms of income generation.
Below we have presented our Rookie Review, which is an analysis of the 2013 Ladies European Tour to show you the tour schedule, where the tournaments were located, and an analysis of tournament results with the score average for making every cut, and the score average for earning the last place check.
The Rookie Review Process - Score Averages
Separating Facts from Feelings
We know that at some point of time ambitious amateur golfers want to go and try to play on a pro tour and we think this is wonderful opportunity for a really good amateur golfer to achieve this goal, and we wouldn't want to stop anyone from pursuing their dream if they have the drive to succeed, and more importantly the golf game to do it.
The trouble with the pursuit of a dream like this one is that too often emotions are dictating the decision about turning pro without recognizing the real cost of the decision.
This decision is always a business decision and you need to go through the numbers carefully to determine what it costs to do it properly and to work out if you have the game to succeed.
What we mean by doing it properly is that you are not going to do it on the cheap and nasty where you stay in run down places and just scrape by, because this is never going to work and it will harm your professional development in the long run.
In our example above the average par for the 19 tournaments was 71.54. If you average the total amount over par for making each cut and divide it by the amount of tournament rounds (61.5) you end up with a score average of 72.54.
This average gives you some idea of the standard needed for making cuts in these events.
Now to earn last money (after making the cut) you needed to score an average of 75.3 for the season.
Working Out the Budget
To determine the costs of doing business on tour you will need to do your homework to estimate how much it will cost for you to travel to tournaments, reside somewhere, eat and do all the other things you will need to do whilst on tour.
I have worked out the cost of flying to the tournament locations for the season which is a relatively simple thing to do on the internet.
I have estimated that airfares for the season would work out to be approximately $18,569 dollars (about 12,600 euros).
In our hypothetical example we are working out the costs for a female golfer living in Perth, Western Australia who is going to play the entire season except for the invitational and qualifying events.
We are going to establish a budget for the following:
1. Housing or accommodation
3. Others (general expenses) - i.e. caddy fee's, visa's, car rental and fuel costs, laundry, taxis etc
We will not be looking at the tax implications of travelling and earning income in different countries as this is something you need professional advice on from a tax agent with experience in this specialized area.
It can be less than this once you have played for at least a season and you work out where the savings are as you are travelling from country to country, but it is always better to be safe than sorry, so build a budget around paying more than less for all the services you will require.
The Rookie Review Process - The Daily Budget
Doing the Numbers
OK, so let's take a closer look at what the numbers tell us. From our Rookie Review we can work out the viability of playing golf on the Ladies European Tour.
Remember we started from a hypothetical situation of making every cut and earning last money in 19 events.
Our rookie LET golfer after making a check in 19 events earned 17,402 euros or about 25,575 Australian dollars for being good enough to play in every event, make the cut and make a check.
This would have ranked our golfer around 95th on the order of merit for the 2013 season.
The Rookie Review Process - Profit and Loss
The Profit and Loss - Reality Check
Now that would be something for your first year on tour and that works out to about 1,353 Australian dollars income per week for the season.
Here's the rub though; with expenses of about 3,710 Australian dollars per week we have a problem.
Our expenses far outweigh our income and in her rookie season our golfer would have experienced a 53,099 dollar loss.
Remember we are basing our earnings on making every cut and earning a check in every tournament which is the best case - worst case scenario.
Of course a far more realistic scenario is that a very good amateur golfer will not make 100 percent of the cuts on tour in their rookie season. In fact with a score average of 72.5 our golfer would have missed a few cuts so the income would have been less but the expenses never are.
The Break Even Point
What about the break even point? Well, our golfer would need to rank about 46th on the 2013 money list (around 50 places better) to generate income of around 48,000 euros or 70,540.00 Australian dollars.
As we always advise amateur golfers pursuing a pro tour career you have to do 2 things really well to become a successful golfer on any professional golf tour.
1. Make many more cuts than you miss
2. Make more money than you spend
And this always gets down to your competitive score average which will need to be par or better to have any chance at all of becoming a successful professional golfer.