A recent article on the Scottish Golf Union website regarding winter training plans for their elite amateur players made me give some thought to the variations between Great Britain & Ireland (and indeed all countries governed by the amateur status rules of the R&A) and the United States (governed by the amateur status rules of the USGA) in the funding available to young amateur golfers.
Most young amateurs in the United States have historically had access to funding through the outstanding collegiate golf system, which allows academic development AND the pursuit of golfing excellence. Outside of the college golf system however, young players in the USA required family to support them financially in their participation in various amateur events throughout the country during non college time (USGA Amateur Championships, North & South Amateur, Porter Cup etc), often a very expensive exercise with entry fees, accommodation, meals and lodging etc. The USGA rules of amateur status previously did not provide for the provision of financial support for players over the age of 18 by anyone other than family.
Outwith the USA, although there are a number of universities offering golf scholarships providing a balance of academic and sporting excellence, most notably University of Stirling (which amongst others produced Richie Ramsay from Aberdeen the 2006 US Amateur Champion) in Scotland, university/college golf events do not generally represent the highest level of amateur golf. Instead, the majority of young amateur golfers require to seek competion at the highest level in various national and international amateur competitions. Hence funding for young amateur golfers to participate in these events for their development has been required for to be made available through sources other than family, and to have been allowed in the rules of amateur status as layed down by the R&A. There are checks to ensure remuneration of expenses is not abused, and funding must be provided through a player’s area or national association.
Interestingly on this point, the USGA came in line with the R&A in 2006 on this point.
My personal experience of the systems on each side of the Atlantic, while a long time ago (and getting longer -:) nonetheless remains fresh in my memory as a scholar athlete on at Ohio State University, and then at the University of Stirling from where I graduated in 1984. My brother Gordon, co founder of PerryGolf was a scholar athlete on the Mark H McCormack scholarship at the College of William & Mary.
The R&A and USGA do work very closely in many areas, although as regards amateur status there have been variations over the years, as each body has tailored its rules to suit evolving circumstances as they best see fit. For the time being they seem very well aligned. In this ever changing world, with the best amateur golfers very quickly able to make their mark on professional golf, there is however much debate and discussion in general about the future direction of “amateur golf”, and there are of course many views! Time will tell.