6 min read


Hello Golfers,

As the highly skilled golfers that we are, it's not too often we walk up to the first tee without some sort of appearance fee. We understand it's not like that for everyone. Some people actually have to DRIVE—in a pre-Y2K era vehicle—to their golf tournaments. Pay for stuff like food and shelter. And then hopefully win enough money to pay off the credit card.

We applaud and explore those golfers below.

Golf is hard and then you have dirty laundry

A heartwarming story this past week - the culmination of Michal Visacki’s emotional roller coaster. After years of grinding it out on his Knish-like leather ass, the 27 year-old successfully qualified for the Valspar Championship.

Mr. Visacki, the quintessential mini Tour legend, in a nutshell:

  • Winner of 37 West Florida Pro Tour (WFPT) events since 2017 (37!!)
  • All-time WFPT money winner ($141,505 in 164 starts)
  • One made cut on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 ($4,590 windfall)
  • 18 career holes-in-one (just a fun unrelated nugget)

Golf, the ultimate sport; you can’t fake it, you either deliver or you don’t. Though a prolific minor professional circuit player, Visacki has played exactly one KFT event and zero PGA events (until now). And unlike many professional sports, teammates can’t bail you out on a bad day.

Clearly, getting onto the PGA Tour, or even the minor leagues, is a truly difficult task.

The average touring player and their weekly/daily To Do list:

  • Adapting to different golf courses with ever changing conditions
  • Playing most courses at their most difficult and lengthiest
  • Playing well enough to qualify for and cover the expenses for next week’s event
  • Laundry

In additions to the golf, also consider the following:

  • Events are separated by great distances
  • Distances you are driving
  • Sleeping in a rat-infested “motel” to save a buck, usually with 2-3 “buddies”
  • Laundry

Not exactly conditions ripe for playing your best. So, why do aspiring professionals go through this cauldron of hell?

The payoffs can be life transformative at the highest professional levels.

The biggest obstacle to chasing the neon rainbow of high level professional golf is the almighty dollar; lots of dough is needed to launch your career, especially at the entry level.

Having entry fees, travel costs, and laundry covered is beneficial to free one’s mind/body up for playing as well as possible.

Pretty sure swing thoughts of “pick your number and put a solid swing on it” are vastly different from “don’t whiff this putt or we are back to plugging our cake-hole with a steady supply of gas station hot dogs”.

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  • Let there be women!: In its 108 year history, Pine Valley has voted to allow female members and unrestricted women’s play. (welcome to the 21st century)
  • Anchoring is Anchoring: Billy Horschel wants the "arm-lock" putting grip banned. The arguement is that it's anchored, I mean locked against the body.
  • But I haven't teed off yet: Jimmy Walker was assessed a two-stroke before he even set foot on the first tee. Note to self...don't be late.
  • Equipment ALERT: Viktor Hovland is using some sleek and sexy new irons. The Ping i59. Yeah, we have questions too.
  • Is John Daly Santa: John Daly is starting to look more and more like Santa. I guess it's Bud Light, and Marlboro's for Christmas this year.

$300 Entry Fees & $3 Hot Dogs

When you consider the cost of a PGA Tour membership fee (~$200 annually) is pretty much on par with a mini Tour event entry fee ($300+/week), one can clearly see that sponsors are footing the bill on the big stages.

Thank you sponsors, literally.

Not only are these generous, capitalistic entities ponying up large (oversized) cheques for event purses, they are also an ever-growing, directly visible presence on the players themselves.

If you are a player deemed worthy of sponsoring to augment your on-course earnings, consider the following prime real estate on a player’s body (with the caveat, of course, that some bodies are more prime than others):

  • Hats (front, back, side, brim) - $75K+
  • Shirts (chest, collar, sleeves, back) - $10K - $1M+
  • Bags (zippered side, bottom) - $75K+

Visibility is key.

Think of all the televised downtime between shots for players and precisely where viewer’s eyeballs are drawn.

As a player improves and becomes more consistent, those non-tournament earnings can be drastically enhanced via sponsor’s incentives:

  • Keeping a Tour card: $10,000–$25,000
  • A Tour win: $25,000–$100,000
  • Making the FedEx Cup Finals: $100,000

We asked earlier why somebody would punish themselves on golf’s mini Tours? Well, look at the breakdown of an average top 125 player who wins “once in a while” and you will see:

  • Average total Tour earnings: $2,000,000
  • Average total non-tournament earnings: $700,000
  • Average total outlay: $554,000
  • Average net profit (before taxes): $2,146,000
  • Charles Howell III - $40,000,000+ in career earnings (3 wins)

Now you see why perhaps the biggest loss in a PGA player’s year isn’t missing out on a top finish one week, but dropping out of the very lucrative top 125 fully exempt list altogether.

That feels like a rapid return to $300+ entry fees and dodgy $3 hot dogs for lunch, and we’re sure that Chucky Three Sticks isn’t buying.

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Show Me The Money!

“I’m out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be me out here for you. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, okay?” — Jerry Maguire

Mike Visacki did not have an agent holding back camera’s last Monday when he wept into his phone when he qualified for the Valspar Championship. Nor did he have an agent on the phone negotiating his viral video bonus clause with Titleist. That we know of.

“I picked the least scummy guy”

We spoke with a guy. That's right, we gott a guy, what's it to you's. Our source was approached in university after playing well in a National Open.

  • Agents started following his rounds
  • 3-4 met with him
  • He picked the least scummy guy (read that again...this was the decisive factor)

The selling point for each agent was:

  • Their contacts
  • How many starts they can secure (or are under the illusion they can)
  • How much sponsorship money they can get (or are under the delusion they can)

Some of these young pros sign 5-year deals but start paying out agent’s fees instantly. Even on the development tours (that’s rougher than a sandpaper colonoscopy).

Alternatively, some of these deals are structured, like our smarter than most source from above, where he only starts paying agent’s dues once he makes “The Show”.

If our guy had instead signed a 5-year deal, he would’ve:

  • paid a 20% fee for any earned endorsements (even if only playing the development tours)
  • paid 20% of all earnings from any start that his agent secured for him (even on the development tours)

Agents aren’t exactly lining the ropes at mini-tour events.

Not good for Mr. Visacki or his brethren. There’s not a lot of money in 20% of a $1,500 winners check (300 bones to be precise). Tough to pocket that $300 (before tax) and expect your guy to have enough fumes in the tank (his car, his belly, and his mind) to roll into the next tournament and perform well.

“I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke.” — Jerry Maguire

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Golf Term

Trunk Slammer: is someone who misses the cut, loads his clubs into the car, slams the trunk and goes home. Dont' be fooled by the "misses the cut" line. When you come crawling in with a 98 that has four asterisks and two "m's" on your card...you too can be a trunk slammer.

The Bushwood Experience

We had zero submissions this week which tells us we're running with a bunch of keeners or scaredy cats.

We'd lvoe to hear your most outrageous "BUSHWOOD" story...all completely anonymous (we don't even need your email): follow this link

If you're enjoying The Starter Shack share with a friend....we would appreciate it as much as a members bounce.

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