When it comes to pro golfers, what comes to most people's minds are the top players of the PGA Tour, such as Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson. These are the types of players that win, or place, in the top ten of the major tournaments, such as the Masters, British Open, US Open and the PGA Championship. Additionally, there is the Champions Tour for golfers over 50-years-old, with players such as Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Corey Pavin. The LPGA Tour, which is the women's professional tour, features players such as Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and So Yeon Ryu, who has won $585,000 of the $3,250,000 total purse for the US Women's Open in 2011.
Club Golf Pro Salary
The majority of golf professionals do not compete in the professional golf tours. They earn their living from supervising the golf operations at private and public courses and from giving lessons. These are called club pros. They are members of the PGA of America and are 27,000 strong. Club pros are on salary paid by the club or organization that owns or manages the golf course. The club pro for a municipal golf course is a city employee and would usually earn less than the pro at an expensive private club. Golf pros on tour, or who play in the tournaments, don't receive a salary, but earn tournament prize money.
Club pros give golf lessons and may earn money in addition to their salaries. It depends on the club whether the money for the lessons is paid directly to the pro or paid to the club. The fees may be split between the pro and the club. In the case of the municipal course, giving lessons during work hours may be part of the job description and included in the salary.
The big money in golf goes to the top-ten finishers in the major tournaments, although every player who makes the cut does receive some money. For example, the 2011 US Open had a $7.5 million purse. The winner in 2011, Rory McIlroy, took home over $1.44 million. Compare that to the Nationwide Tour, with purses that average about $500,000 (think of the Nationwide Tour as the equivalent of farm teams in baseball). The 2010 winner of the Nationwide Tour Midwest Classic, Michael Sims, only won $112,500 for his first-place finish. Players must either qualify for a PGA Tour card either by winning tournaments to earn an exemption for the following year, through placement in qualifying tournaments or by ranking in the top 125 players in winnings.
Tiger Woods received a $40 million contract from Nike in 1996 that increased to $100 million over a five-year period in 2006. Endorsements can outrank tournament winnings on a yearly basis and can go on beyond the time the player actually plays the game. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are two examples of players with such endorsements -- they still earn endorsement money despite no longer competing in the PGA Tour or in the Champions Tour.
Book Advances, teaching videos, speaking engagements and special appearances add additional dollars to the pro golfer's wallet. The amount of the advance is determined on what the publishing company believes the sales will be.
Pro golfers have significant expenses to meet. They must pay their caddies a salary, or percentage of winnings, or both; and there are travel and hotel expenses, equipment and clothing, physical therapy and coaching to be paid (however, if the pro golfer has an endorsement contract with an equipment manufacturer, for example, that does defray some of the expenses incurred).