This is a great question, and one that is asked of me often. Not only why haven’t I gone pro…ever, but what are the common denominators/intangibles needed to be successful when try the play for pay circuit. I know the odds, I personally know over 500 guys that have tried the play for pay circuit and I can count on one hand the number that have made a good living playing golf.

I may be wrong, but right now from one of the most populated areas in the country, that being Northern California, I can only list a few that have really made it. And it’s not the guys that were considered can’t miss…..like Bobby Clampett who absolutely dominated amateur golf on a global basis. I can name 100+ guys that were really good, but just didn’t have the missing ingredient. That ingredient I believe number #1 is the belief that you CAN be a winner in the professional ranks, many don’t feel they are good enough. Handling the failure of not making it right away as a pro is tough as many amateurs just knew dominating amateur golf.

Then you have the guys that did make it that you’d probably not predict would like Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron come to mind. I’ve had the god fortune to talk to these guys about this exact subject, and the truth is quite revealing about success in professional golf like any business. It’s basically the burning desire and willingness to sacrifice anything to be successful. Some guys hit the snooze at 5:30 am when it’s time to hit the gym, while others fire out of bed and can’t wait to start their day.

Personally what motivates me is falling short of what I believe to be my potential, my one shot that comes and goes very quickly like everything in life. I can remember the 2000 NCGA Amateur at Spyglass when I made the finals and faced a very good player James Hay in the 36 hole final. After 3 straight days of walking and playing 36 holes I was on pure adrenaline during the final match. I stayed up in the match all day until I ran out of gas on the 14th hole at Spyglass where I chunk-ed my third shot in the lake, that send me reeling to defeat on the 36 hole. Now for those of you that know James, he does not look like a fit athlete, and you’d think you could outlast him physically since he’s carrying some extra weight on those 12 mile walking days. But NO I was the one that got tired, and after losing on the 36 hole I drove back to the Bay Area and went to the gym and did an hour of intense cardio to help with my frustration and missed opportunity. Other times I’ve hit a good bottle of red. But the point is we all have different DRIVING factors that make that small difference in making it or not.

Being a realist and analyzing ones weaknesses is a very important start in the process. If you have immense talent, but have some glaring weaknesses, you’d better be working on those into the wee ours of the night as opposed to hanging with the gang, chicks, guys or whatever is going to keep you from success. Listen, I’m not paid to ramble on like this, nor do I like seeing wasted talent go down the drain because the kid doesn’t have the drive and discipline to run his golf life like a serious business.

Pro golf is not like other major sports where about 1000 baseball players are making $1 million a year regardless of how they perform. Not that will adjust and that money goes away quickly, but golf is not a team event, it’s you against the world. That’s the hard part, everyone out there wants to beat your brains out, especially for the kind of money the pro’s are playing for these days. Do you think Tiger is sitting on his ass sulking that he lost perhaps the hottest girl on the planet, and now needs to date co-eds and waffle house waitresses..well yes he is doing those things while practicing like a mad man all other hours of the day. He is driven and talented beyond belief, and will have his day in the spotlight again. Why will this happen for Tiger, because of what I just said, he knows what it takes to be a winner, it’s hard work. Do you not think Phil Mickelson works hard on his game, or any of those top players, hell yes they do and they are working a lot harder on their games than we are, its their JOB.

That really is the key word, JOB…many of these amateurs don’t know what work is, they’ve just played in the nice junior circuit followed by college golf and some great amateur events. But that’s not the proving ground, the real test is when you try to graduate to the PAY FOR PLAY ranks. Honestly I always knew where I belonged, in amateur golf which I love dearly.

So if anyone is still reading this, then here is my advice.

  1. Find the best possible teacher that money can buy, someone you can see often and are able to afford
  2. properly assess your weaknesses and see if you can turn them into strengths
  3. If you hit the ball a long way but can’t putt, and never have been able to putt, get on Monster.com and get a job fast!
  4. If you are not getting a TPI or equivalent exercise regimen, you are loosing ground to your competition by the second
  5. If you got addictions like drugs, booze, or distracting chicks, then take a break and get help, you’ll never make it
  6. If you are playing amateur golf, and aren’t ranked in the top 100 amateurs in the world, get there before you decide to go pro. If you can’t crack the top 100 amateurs, what chance do you have as a pro.
  7. If a 52 yr old amateur with a suspect bunker game is kicking your ass, then you should get a job, come see me at the Olympic club and we’ll gauge your game
  8. If your not shooting 4-8 under par at your home course regularly then just enjoy the game
  9. Be willing to sacrifice everything imaginable to be the absolute best you can possibly be, that means sacrifice and getting to the gym tomorrow at 6am, meanwhile Tiger has already done 3 sets of everything.
  10. If your not an elite amateur and haven’t won any major amateur events, don’t waste your time asking people to invest in you. You must prove to everyone that you have the drive to win at every level
  11. If your hand-eye coordination is not good enough to allow you to get up and down from a garbage can, then pro golf is not in your future
  12. AND FINALLY- SET GOALS, and ASSESS against those goals. Re-adjust and be realistic, but DON’T waste the best years of your life chasing something your not willing to give 1000% percent effort towards

I would love to hear your comments on this subject. These are my opinions and I’ve been known to be wrong many times, but this is one subject I’m very qualified to comment on. If you are aspiring to play for pay, then you need to work harder than anyone out there. Do you think Ricky Fowler works on his game…OMG be real about the time and talent these guys have.

Playing great amateur golf is a million miles from the pay circuit. If you have what it takes, contact me and I’ll give you my thoughts on the best teachers, exercises, training aids, and mental exercises and goal preparation.  If not maybe we’ll just have a private skins game and we’ll have some fun.

Thanks for staying with me through this one!!



  1. Your comments are helpful even for a six index like me. Helps put golf in perspective.

  2. Randy,

    Could not agree with you more…I ask people “how often have you shot 64 at your home course?” If the answer is “uhh” then the other answer is “no.”

  3. Great piece of writing Randy. Why stop at amateurs? I know of some PGA Tour pros that could learn a valuable lesson after reading this!

  4. Randy – this is exactly right. I played college golf at Vanderbilt. Have been as low as +4 and made one U.S. Mid-Am (competitive golf has been off and on since college). My college coach, Mason Rudolph, told me right before the SEC championship as a sophomore that the biggest difference between me and the other guys was that they believed they were good. I never thought I was the best or better than anyone else. I think that guys that make it just believe they are the good or the best – even if they aren’t. And, they have a burning desire to make, which results in a singular focus on golf. To be elite at anything requires that singular focus. I wish I had that, but I realized after my sophomore year when I was the number payer at Vandy but in the bottom quarter of the SEC that pro golf was not going to happen. I was always a late bloomer so I wish I had spent a few years giving it a try. But, even now, I don’t like practicing. But, I’ll go play any chance I get.

  5. A very good assesment of what it takes, which is really just physical ability and a desire and drive to work really hard. I wonder what your take would be on some of the ‘late bloomers’ that have proven themselves in professional golf over the years? Or what effect “one good week” can have (or not have a la Jack Fleck) on the ability to make it.

  6. “Personally what motivates me is falling short of what I believe to be my potential, my one shot that comes and goes very quickly like everything in life.”

    You seem to have been able to play a pretty full schedule for years now–has your motivation remained high during all of that time or has it at times been challenged by the demands of life–work, family, health, etc.? Has competitive golf stayed “fresh” for you (if so how have you kept it fresh) or have you gone through periods of burnout (if so how did you deal with it)?

  7. I have a question, if your goal was lower, what do you think it would take to reach a sufficient standard to work as a teaching professional. Specifically to get to a handicap of less than 4 and pass the playing ability test OR to get to scratch? Do all of the same apply? could you get to >4 without being a superb putter and would you need to head straight to monster.com?



    • The level of your goal doesn’t really matter, to improve you need a game plan that covers all aspects of the game. Remember in a pressure situation your weaknesses will be exposed. If you have a golf specific workout and a practice regimen you will have the best chance at success.

      Bottom line is NOBODY can teach hand-eye coordination, balance you can work on. I suggest you get a TPI evaluation, and get a workout program suited for your body.

      Let me know how it goes….

      Randy Haag

  8. When I graduated from college, I has been playing seriously for about a year (after playing baseball for most for college) and went home to South Florida to work at a golf resort and play full time to see if the pro route might be something to try.

    I got to a +2 and was thinking things looked good. Right after Thanksgiving, the influx of snowbirds arrived along with a whole crop of new guys in the bag room who come South for the winter after their gigs up North shutdown for the Winter. Amongst the guys in the bag room and the assistants, I was as good as any of them but the first day out playing with three guys who I had never met or heard of before, I got a dose of reality.

    I played very well….as well as I could play, shot 68 from the tips on the Champion Course at PGA National and was so far away from these guys it was unbelievable. Two 64’s and a 66 and the difference in our games was miles more than the 3-4 shots difference in our scores. These were three guys I had never heard of or seen before (and that never sniffed making it it past the mini-tours in Florida).

    I ramped up my job search in the real world and had a great 6 months working and playing golf until I found my first job. Some years later I read the quote from Lee Trevino something to the effect of :if you look around the room of the people you play with and are not even the best person there”…..

    BTW, love #3 about if you cant putt and never have been able to putt, head to monster.com. Truer words were never spoken.

  9. Forget forget a resume, Forget asking opinions, practice like everyday is your last, bounce out of bed because you are blessed with the opportunity to piss excellence. Forget politically correct, Forget rights and wrongs, there is only do or die..Do what you do and you’ll figure out what you need to do to survive. The real test is finding out who you are in the search. The right person only needs an entry fee to make it.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: