Competing in a professional golf tournament -- possibly against stars such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- could be an incredible thrill for some amateur golfers. Actually winning the tournament would be even more spectacular, and would result in a nice trophy -- but no prize money. The United States Golf Association prohibits amateurs from accepting prize money in golf tournaments.
USGA Rule 3-1
USGA Rule 3-1, "Playing for Prize Money," states that an amateur golfer cannot play for money in a golf match, exhibition or other competition such as a tournament. The USGA enforces the rule to maintain a clear distinction between amateur golfers and professionals. The USGA offers one exception to the rule. Amateurs can keep prize money for winning a hole-in-one contest during the course of a tournament. But the amateur could not accept money for winning the tournament overall.
USGA Rule 3-2
An amateur winning a golf tournament could accept a prize -- if the value is $750 or less. USGA Rule 3-2, "Prize Money," allows amateurs to compete in events and win prizes such as vouchers for free golf equipment. The prize limit of $750 applies to tournaments and virtually all other golf competition, including longest drive contests, skills competition at a driving course, or games played on a golf simulator. The only exception is for a hole-in-one competition during a tournament. Amateurs can keep prizes exceeding the $750 limit for winning a hole-in-one, according to the USGA.
Amateurs competing in a golf tournament with prize money available must waive their right to accept prize money, according to USGA Rule 3-1. An amateur golfer competing in an event such as the Masters golf tournament plays for other reasons, including the experience and the opportunity to enhance his golf career with a good finish.
In 1991, Phil Mickelson won the PGA Northern Telecom Open as a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State University. First prize was $180,000, but as an amateur Mickelson could not accept the money, according to the "Los Angeles Times." Professionals Bob Tway and Tom Purtzer, who finished tied for second, split the first-prize and second-place prize money, with each earning $144,000.