For the very best college football or basketball players, the path to the professional ranks has always been well-defined. Excel at what you do and a suitor will come calling via the draft. That’s not the case in individual sports, of course, so you can be the Kyler Murray of men’s golf and have to grind your way through the minor leagues to make the PGA Tour.
Given the recent competition for talent presented by LIV Golf, as well as recognition that the top college players should have a more immediate road to the big leagues, the PGA Tour has big changes—and enormous opportunities—in the offing.
In an update that was sent to its membership this week, the PGA Tour said that it is considering two proposals for providing better access for college players transitioning to the pro ranks beginning after the 2022-23 D-I season. The ideas were first discussed during a Players Advisory Council meeting in early October at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas. Both proposals seemingly have a strong chance for approval at the PAC meeting scheduled for Nov. 14 during the RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Ga.
In the first scenario, the No. 1 player in the final PGA Tour University Ranking, which identifies the top seniors in each class, would be eligible, following the NCAA Championship in June, to receive membership on the PGA Tour. He would be placed at the end of the Korn Ferry Tour category and be subject to reshuffle. The memo said the “benefits would commence this season with the class of 2023 with access for 2024 and beyond to be evaluated with the PAC and Player Directors.”
In the second proposal, which seeks to “ensure that a unique talent has an accelerated pathway to the PGA Tour,” top underclassmen could advance by achieving key benchmarks in the college, amateur and professional ranks. Points would be accumulated based on top collegiate awards, amateur wins, career-best World Amateur Golf Rankings position, and performance in PGA Tour events, including majors.
To provide context in its memo, the tour said that, since 2010, three underclassmen would have qualified via the second pathway. The tour did not identify the three golfers.
In the case of both proposals, players must immediately accept their promotion after the NCAA spring season. For the underclassmen who reach the points threshold early—for example, by winning the U.S. Amateur—they will have to wait until the following June to begin their PGA Tour play as a member.
The players who earn these promotions would be exempt into all open, full-field events for the current season, which the tour approximates to be about 14 starts.
In the current PGA Tour University system, the top five golfers at the end of the college season (the first team( earn Korn Ferry Tour membership for the then-current season, while also being exempt into PGA Tour Canada and Latinoamerica events the following season. Nos. 6-10, the second team, will immediately become conditional members on the Korn Ferry Tour, exempt on PGA Tour Canada for the current season and PGA Tour Latinoamerica the following season. The third team, Nos. 11-20, will be exempt on PGA Tour Canada for the current season and PGA Tour Latinoamerica the next season.
With a significant portion of the current college season to be played, Ludvig Aberg of Texas Tech tops the PGA Tour University standings, followed by Austin Greaser (North Carolina), Adrien Dumont De Chassart (Ilinois), Sam Bennett (Texas A&M) and Fred Biondi (Florida).