Making It Onto the PGA Tour: What to Do and When

by | Jan 23, 2019 | Sports Featured

Admit it: you’ve dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour, of basking in a Sunday crowd’s adulation as you sink the winning putt on the final green.

Let’s take a closer look at what aspiring Tour golfers need to do, and when, to land a spot on the golf world’s biggest stage.

How Selective Is the PGA Tour?

First things first: the PGA Tour is really selective. How selective? overstates it a bit, but the numbers don’t lie: of approximately 80 million active golfers worldwide, just 245 play on the PGA Tour — 0.0003% of all active golfers. Of course, the vast majority of said golfers never consider trying out for the PGA Tour.

Golfers earn spots on the PGA Tour in one of a handful of ways. Before 2013, the most common vector was “Q-School,” a funnel for serious amateurs aspiring to something more. Q-School has since been replaced by the Tour, the most popular option for U.S. golfers, as a direct vector for PGA Tour qualification. We’ll take a look at some others in turn, as well.

No More Q-School

Q-School is the colloquial name for the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, the preferred method of awarding PGA Tour cards between 1965 and 2012. At the end of the 2012 season, Q-School ceased to exist as a direct vector to the PGA Tour. Today, its successor tournament is a funnel into the Tour, through which PGA Tour aspirants may earn PGA Tour cards.

Making It Onto (and Through) the Tour

Per this primer from Golfweek, Q-School has multiple qualifying stages:

  • A 54-hole pre-qualifying stage
  • A 72-hole first qualifying stage
  • A 72-hole second qualifying stage
  • A 108-hole final qualifying stage

All in, you’ll pay about $15,000 out of pocket — not including incidentals — to make it through all four stages. Only the final round’s top five finishers turn a profit, so you’ll need to make sure you can shoulder the financial burden before committing to a Q-School season.

If you make it through to the Tour, you’ll need to either:

  • Win three times in a single Tour season (numerically, this isn’t as common)
  • Finish in the Tour money list’s top 75 to make the Tour Finals, a series of four tournaments that collectively confer 50 PGA Tour cards

The Tour money list’s top 25 finishers automatically earn PGA Tour cards. The rest of the Finals field has to duke it out for the remaining 25.

Less Common Ways to Get Onto the PGA Tour

Although it’s not as common, there are at least two other ways to get onto the PGA Tour:

  • Sneak Into a Sanctioned PGA Tour Event (and Win): If you do well enough in a Monday qualifying event for non-PGA members, and then win the corresponding tournament, you’re automatically granted Tour membership.
  • Accumulate Enough PGA Tour Points as a Non-member: Basically, you need to sneak onto enough PGA Tour events, and then accumulate enough points to finish in the FedEx Cup top 125.

It Won’t Be Easy

It’s worth reiterating just how unlikely it is for any given golfer — even one with true talent — to make it onto the PGA Tour. You’re even less likely to find riches on the Tour, if you somehow do make it on.

This isn’t meant to discourage you. Don’t let anyone tell you not to follow your passion. Just know that nothing is written, and that it behooves even the most talented athletes to have a backup plan.

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