The club pros have had their fun – but it's time to let the elite get on with itAugust 11, 2018
Twenty club professionals get the chance to tee it up at the PGA Championship every year. But, as Steve Carroll explains, it's time to stop this tradition
Major championships should be all about the elite – the best of the best battling it out for the highest honours in our game. But the PGA Championship isn’t quite like that.
The PGA of America awards 20 spots each year to the grass-roots members – the hard working professionals who run clubs and try and make the rest of us a little better.
They won their place at Bellerive through the PGA Professional Championship, a 72-hole tournament that also bags the victor entry to some lesser PGA Tour events the following season.
And it gives the rest of the rung the ‘consolation’ of being able to play the year’s final major.
Since the top 20 cut was introduced in 2006, though, you’ve not had to come close to finding the winning score to compete in Glory’s Last Shot.
In fact a mere one under par total, barring the need for play-offs, would have got you to the PGA Championship every single year since.
Now compare that situation with our Open, where most second tier and club professionals must come through regional qualifying.
Then they meet the top class players – the European Tour and PGA Tour stars who have not already made the grade – at final qualifying.
At St Annes Old Links, 9-under over 36 holes wasn’t enough to get you to Carnoustie. It’s a stiff test – as it should be.
Now you can argue about the weaknesses at The Masters, where a host of former greats struggle to break 80 and seriously compromise an already limited field.
And I would agree. There’s also nothing worse than seeing a faded memory limping round our own classic links – even if there is the occasional farewell to an icon of the game.
But with the PGA bar set so low, it’s no surprise the club pros found life tough in St Louis – despite conditions that saw a slew of scores in the mid 60s on the second day.
With the cut expected to be at even par, only one of our heroes – Ben Kern – is looking like making the weekend.
It’s not like we’re talking about young talent who are playing either, those who might be using their employment as a potential stepping-stone to greater glories.
Ian Poulter, famously, was an assistant professional before breaking into the big time.
The youngest of this year’s PGA club pro qualifiers is 30. Bob Sowards, who currently props up the field of 156, is 50.
He shot 80 the first day, a score that only fellow qualifier David Muttitt, who was one worse, could compare with.
Muttitt might be a familiar name to you. He played at Quail Hollow 12 months ago and shot 84 and 83.
What and who does that serve? Yes, it gives these club stalwarts the experience of a lifetime and I appreciate those intentions.
But major championships should not be about handing out the golfing equivalent of long service awards for the lucky recipients. It shouldn’t be about rewards for being a member of the PGA.
I can’t walk out for my beloved Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium and there’s a very valid reason for that – I’m not good enough.
The PGA isn’t open. So it should be about the world’s top 100 and former champions from the previous decade who aren’t already exempt. That’s it.
There is no room for sentiment at the highest level.