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Today’s PGA Qualifying – Getting a PGA Tour Card

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Updated July 22, 2020

November 11, 2016 – At Nike Junior Golf Camps we often hear our campers asking, “how can I become a pro golfer?” as many do not understand the process of making it to the PGA Tour. In sports like basketball and football, top high school recruits play in college and, if they do well enough, they are recognized by scouts and drafted. However, it is not quite so simple in the golf world. We believe our campers should know the steps involved in getting to the professional level so they may understand the challenge it poses and set realistic goals for themselves.

Advancing From Q School to the Korn Ferry Tour

For a long time, the only way a player could reach the highest level of golf was directly through The PGA Qualifying Stages or “Q School”.. If you made it through, they handed you a PGA Tour card for the following year. However, in 2013 the organization changed its rules for the ways in which players could make their way to the top and it’s a bit complicated. The setup of Q School is very similar, but now there is a buffer tour called the Korn Ferry Tour that separates it from the PGA Tour.

Q School was started in 1965 and has since been the notoriously grueling proving ground for all aspiring professional golfers. It occurs in the PGA off-season between late August and December and includes four sequential stages. Players are required to pay a large entry fee at each round, usually to such a high amount that sponsor support is necessary. Each tournament-style round varies in length and costs between $2,500 and $4,500.

The Pre-Qualifying Round is the first stage in the series. There are six different locations across the country and each includes 54 holes of tournament play. Depending on decided cut lines at each location, 35-40 of the top players qualify for the next round.

The First Stage has twelve tournaments at different locations, each with a field of about 80 participants and 25 advancing to the next stage. The Second Stage is a similar setup to the prior round, except there are just five locations and only 18 players plus ties advance to the final. The First and Second Stages play a traditional 72-hole format.

The Final Stage of Q School is held at one location with 144 participants. It is considered one of the greatest tests of mental and physical strength with 108 holes of competitive play. The field has a wide variety of players consisting of qualified players via earlier stages, low money earners for the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular season, as well as high performing international players with exemptions. The Top 25 players at the Q School Final Stage receive Korn Ferry Tour cards.

How to Get a PGA Tour Card

Once a player has qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour via Q School, there are multiple ways to receive a PGA Tour card. The first is through what veterans have dubbed, “The Battlefield Promotion”. If a player wins any three events on the Korn Ferry Tour, they are automatically awarded their ticket to the PGA. A more common route requires players to finish in the Top 25 in total earnings for the Korn Ferry Tour regular season. The last and most difficult opportunity occurs at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

The Korn Ferry Tour Finals is a series of four tournaments that finishes up the regular season and where the last 25 PGA Tour cards are earned for the year. The field consists of the Top 75 players on the Korn Ferry money list along with the 75 PGA players that do not make the FedEx Cup Playoffs (ranked 126-200). Players that were already guaranteed a spot during the Web.com regular season also participate to establish priority for the following season. At the end of the Finals, the Top 25 players in total money earnings for the series are awarded a card. (each tournament in the series also has a $1,000,000 purse)

Korn Ferry Tour players must finish in the Top 25 for the regular season or the Finals to receive a PGA card. If a PGA player does not make the FedEx Cup Playoffs (players finishing 126-200), he must defend his tour card by finishing in the Top 25 during the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. A total of 50 player cards are guaranteed in the Korn Ferry Tour process, plus any battlefield promotions or exemptions.

Simple Breakdown

Below is the breakdown of the traditional ways to receive a PGA Tour Card (or maintain it for the following season).

FedEx Cup - Top 125 Players

Korn Ferry Tour Finals Money List - Top 25 Players

Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Money List - Top 25 Players

Three-Win Promotion on the Korn Ferry Tour (informally referred to as the "Battlefield Promotion")

*PGA Tour players who finish 126th-200th on the FedEx Cup points list, have the opportunity to keep their PGA Tour Card by finishing in the Top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Non-exempt players who finish 126th-150th in FedEx Cup points and do not finish in the Top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, receive a conditional PGA Tour status for the following season and are fully exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Tour Card Exemptions

If a non-PGA Tour member should build enough FedEx Cup points in the year to the extent he would finish in the Top 125 as a member, he would be eligible to receive a PGA Tour card for the following year. This can only happen if said player is admitted to enough tournaments through sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifying (Jordan Spieth accomplished this feat without ever competing in Q School or the Korn Ferry Tour).

Below are other exemptions that allow a non-qualified player to keep their Card.

Lifetime Exemption - Players with at least 20 career wins on the PGA Tour

Five-Year Exemption - Winners of any major championships, The Players Championship, or the FedEx Cup

Three-Year Exemption - Those players who win one of the following tournaments: World Golf Championships, The Tour Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, or the Memorial Tournament

One-Year Exemption - Top 25 Career Money List players (receive a two-time exemption) and players on the Top 50 Career Money List (one-time exemption)

Event Exemptions

Non-PGA Tour members are able to compete in events more traditionally via Monday qualifying, or via sponsor exemption. Sponsors of the PGA Tour may provide exemptions to their tournament for standout players. Typically, these exemptions go to players who are bound to draw a crowd and increase tournament interest, for any number of reasons.

Weighing the Good and the Bad

The PGA Tour players love this format, because it places a safety net between them and the dreadful Q School. And while it is more difficult for Q School players to break through to the top, the Korn Ferry Tour has opened space for more golfers to play professionally. With large tournament purses and sponsorship opportunities, standout Korn Ferry Tour players can golf full-time and live comfortably as they make the push.

Getting Junior Players to the Next Level

The professional golf world has become even more competitive than in years' past. Playing well in Q School is no longer enough. Junior players need to understand the increasing competition and realize the amount of practice and grit required. It is no small task getting to the PGA Tour, but with the right kind of coaching and personal dedication, any child can be poised to accomplish their dreams of golf glory.

About Nike Junior Golf Camps

Nike Junior Golf Camps is a division of US Sports Camps, Inc., America’s largest sports camp network. NGJC offers junior overnight and day camps, and advanced player schools at over 100 locations nationwide. Since 1994, more than 175,000 junior golfers have participated in the camps. To explore a variety of camp options and locations please visit the official website for Nike Junior Golf Camps.

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