Talking turkey: How much does a tour player really earn?

Cameron Champ poses with the trophy after winning the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi on Sunday

So how much does a PGA Tour Pro actually make per annum? We’re talking about a top 125 in the rankings player here, one who is not just guaranteed to retain his tour card, but more often than not will go all the way to the FedEx Cup play-offs.

Maybe even throw in a regular season win every season or two.

Whose rough end of year prize-money is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2million.

The website got a top sports agent, on the guarantee of anonymity, to sit down and talk turkey. Dollar bills. What kind of non prize-money income can they generate? And what are the outlays that many either don’t see - or don’t wish to see.

For starters, a tour pro’s hat is worth somewhere between $250,000 and half a million dollars.

“The front of the hat is your No. 1 real estate,” the agent reported to “On the high end, this deal generally includes other inventory—bag, equipment—as well. If you’re a Top 30 player, you’re definitely making seven figures on this. For a Top 10 guy, you’re looking north of $3 million and getting close to eight figures for the most marketable players in the world. For this deal, a player will be obligated to, on average, commit to giving a company three to four appearance/promotional days per year.”

What about the logo on his top? And the ones who walk around looking like an advertising hoarding. You could be talking a hundred grand here.

A player who keeps his card should have a minimum of three to five corporate partners. Maybe that’s a chest deal, a sleeve deal, and a collar deal. A $100,000 logo deal usually includes two player obligations: a content-generation day—like a commercial shoot—and a day in a golf setting, like a pro-am or clinic.

“Generally, each name-and-likeness deal brings in $25K-plus, and requires two meet-and-greet appearances at PGA Tour locations. When you see guys with multiple logos on their chest, that’s a dead giveaway that their apparel deal isn’t paying much. The higher-end deals generally don’t allow additional logos unless they’ve been grandfathered in. Adidas and Under Armour usually allow one extra logo on the sleeve.”

The tools of the trade are a player’s clubs. It’s another hundred grand banked – and it’s usually a deal with Titleist or TaylorMade.

“It used to be, you’d be a full-staff Titleist guy, with a Titleist hat, Titleist on your sleeve, a Titleist golf bag, the ball, the glove. For the normal Top 125 player, what’s happened over the years is the equipment dollars have gone down a bit, and the corporate and clothing dollars have come up. Now what you see more of is, say, a Titleist equipment guy—but he’s got a corporation on the front of his hat, and he wears Puma clothes and shoes. He combines equipment, clothing and corporate dollars.”

Titleist dominate the golf ball market, but still pay a top pro towards six figures to secure their partnership.

If you’re on Tour, you can expect to get a ball-shoe-glove deal from Titleist—unless you get a ball deal from someone like Callaway, TaylorMade or Srixon. Or Bridgestone, though they’re not as common because Bridgestone is way more selective,” the agent told the website.

There are obviously incentive bonuses for winning, and retaining a tour card, but a tour pro is no island. The payouts on any given year will cost around half a million dollars, starting with the caddie.

The bagman (or women’s) cut is 10% of a win, 8% of a top ten and 6% of a made cut. Plus there’s the matter of a stipend for getting the caddie from A to B. They don’t all sleep in trailers, like Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup.

An agent might take $100,000, an accountant $30,000, and a coach and trainer $80,000 more Getting from A to B – and this is just within the PGA Tour venues – will set a tour pro back up to $130,000, with insurance costing a tasty $10,000.

“I’ve never done a policy for one of my guys for less than $1 million,” the agent says. “The Tour has a policy that kicks in after a certain amount of months for a certain amount of time, but those policies are capped financially. Guys generally buy a supplemental policy worth $1-5 million. The agent would be doing his client a disservice if he didn’t encourage this.”

So the balance sheet at the end of year can look like this - Tour earnings: $2,000,000; non-tournament earnings: $700,000; expenditure: $554,000. The bottom line (before taxes)? $2,146,000!!

Here’s the full read

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