2013 U.S. Open: Amateurs make everybody money but themselves

Michael Kim reacts after putting on the first hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The purse at Merion will be close to $1.5 million for whoever pulls away from this quagmire, but should an amateur be the one clutching the trophy, it gets considerably lighter.

$1.5 million lighter.

To maintain their amateur status, as with all college athletes, someone like Michael Kim will have to be compensated zero dollars for any potential tournament victory. This has been well documented, but where does the money go instead?

Why, to the nearest professional golfer, of course.

No, not geographically. But anybody touching a victorious amateur in the standings will instantly be the recipient of the day's chief financial gain. 

From the USGA official rule 3-1, "Playing for Prize Money"

"An amateur golfer must not play golf for prize money or its equivalent in a match, competition or exhibition.
However, an amateur golfer may participate in a golf match, competition or exhibition where prize money or its equivalent is offered, provided that prior to participation he waives his right to accept prize money in that event.
Exception: Where prize money is offered for a hole-in-one made while playing a round of golf, an amateur golfer is not required to waive his right to accept that prize money prior to participation (see Rule 3-2b)."

The most money an amateur can make is $750, and they can feel free to win cash in any hole-in-one contest they like. But as far as tournaments go, their biggest fans should be the guys playing behind them.

Take for example the 1991 North Telecom Open, in which a 20-year-old Phil Mickelson made professionals Bob Tway and Tom Purtzer richer men.

"As an amateur, Mickelson passed up the $180,000 first prize and returned to his classes in Tempe, Ariz., today while the pros went on to Hawaii. Purtzer and Tway split the first and second place prizes, worth $144,000 each."

--The Prescott Courier, January 14, 1991

And what about the caddies, who usually make a small percentage of the winner's purse? If the golfer is making nothing, then the caddie seems more than likely to be stiffed. The USGA research desk surmised that the compensation would be in the form of a personal agreement the caddie had made with the amateur.

However, should Michael Kim wind up on top of the U.S. Open, you'd have to assume Temple LaRue's career would explode a bit.