Something pretty remarkable is happening on a golf course in San Francisco right now. Beau Hossler, a 17-year old, braces wearing amateur, is 3 over par entering Sunday’s final round and tied for 8th place at the 112th U.S. Open. Only 2 players are under par at what is historically the most challenging of the major championships. Looking at the leader-board Sunday morning, Hossler’s name sits on top of names like Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson (the latter 2 failed to even make the cut). And oh yeah, he’s beating 14-time major winner Tiger Woods too. To say that the story line of Hossler fighting for a Top 10 finish or maybe even a Top 5 finish at the U.S Open is unexpected is an understatement. But what should be a tremendous, life-changing day for the amateur is clouded by the fact that he can not receive what he earns because he is just that – an amateur.
The USGA does not allow amateurs to collect prize money earned during a tournament: “An amateur golfer may participate in a golf match, competition or exhibition where prize money or its equivalent is offered, provided that prior to participation he waives his right to accept prize money in that event.”
This year’s U.S. Open has a purse of $8,000,000, with the winner set to take home $1.4 million and the 10th place finisher becoming $185,086 richer. Unfortunately, Hossler is eligible for none of it but that doesn’t make his story any less impressive or compelling. I’m sure he will have plenty of time to earn money for what he does on a golf course and he will make a comfortable living do so, but the USGA has to do something about this antiquated rule. More than a century ago, amateurs may have been second class, but its 2012 and the nomenclature should not matter. If a golfer qualifies for the Open and wins, they should get what they have earned, no matter whether he is in college or committed to play in college and not yet professional (like Hossler). 17-year olds are used to playing sports for fun, so the lack of monetary incentive shouldn’t deter him in his final 18 holes at Olympic. I’m sure a top 10 finish in a major before graduating high school would be deserving of a little extra spending money from mom and dad.