When I started college, I decided to declare as a Business Administration major. It would offer me a wide range of courses, and who knows, I may even learn a useful thing or two along the way. Boy, I had no idea just how right I was.
When you watch golf on TV, all you see is guys with a lot of talent playing the game they love. occasionally, if a journeyman or a young guy is doing well, you may hears bits and pieces of his story. What most people are blissfully unaware of is the intense, encompassing business side of professional golf.
It’s not just budgeting, understanding your finances, and playing golf all day, every day. Every professional golfer is the founder, president, and CEO of his own company. So what does that entail? In this post, I want to shed a light on some of the aspects of professional golf that caught me off guard when I was first getting started.
When you are a junior or college golfer, most of the planning, executing, and expenses are covered by someone you rely on to be your leader. Whether that’s mom and dad, a coach, mentor, or someone else, most players only have to worry about playing golf all the way up until they graduate college. The day you graduate and decide that professional golf is the next step, you are thrown off the proverbial deep end.
What does your tournament schedule look like? Coach isn’t going to take care of that anymore, and as an individual, you aren’t invited to events in your conference. It’s a free for all. The first step is to do the research. What tournaments are available to you? What are the dates? What are the entry deadlines? I hope you have your yearly planner out for this part, because there are a LOT of options that often overlap one another.
Have your tournament schedule set? Good, now lets figure out the cost. For each tournament you just put into your handy dandy planner, there are a variety of questions to answer. What is the entry fee? These are typically anywhere from $250 for the one day and lower level 2 day events, to well over $1000 for some of the bigger mini tours. Bigger entry fees typically means bigger purses, too.
What about housing arrangements? If you’re lucky, you have a friend or colleague with an open couch. If not, time to start sifting through hotels and AirBnB to find the best deal. How about travel? Do you have to fly? If so, what is the cost of a round trip and a rental car? Driving? Track that mileage so you can write it off on your taxes at the end of the year!
Ok, so you’ve made it to the tournament’s home city, now how about food? McDonald’s every night isn’t exactly great preparation to perform at a high level, so you’d better figure out some better alternatives in the area. Not to mention expenses at the golf course. Yardage books typically run about $25, and unless its a Tour sanctioned event, you’d better believe that practice round is going to cost you.
All in, each tournament is going to run the bill up anywhere from $1500-$2500. Some people are fortunate to have family, friends, or others financially supporting them (I’m just a little envious of those people). For those of us who are self-funded, the next aspect of our lives is the part time job that is going to pay for those tournament expenses.
Here is where we start killing multiple birds with one stone. The most popular jobs for starting out professional golfers tend to be cart attendants and caddies at local golf courses. Typically, with a little bit of communication with the higher ups at the course, employment comes with the perk of practice privileges - if you’re lucky, without restrictions on the times and days. Now you have a job, a place to practice and an idea of how much money to put aside so that you can actually play the tournaments on your calendar.
Next, we’re going to test your motivation and time management skills. For reference, there are 168 hours in a week. Let’s say your part time job is 3 days a week, and each shift is 8 hours. That’s 24 hours of work each week. As an athlete, you’re going to want to shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. There’s another 49 hours gone. Consider miscellaneous time like driving to and from work/practice, eating meals, having your morning coffee, and other things like that to be about 2.5 hours per day. That’s another 15 hours. One day a week, the golf course is likely closed for maintenance. You can use that day for laundry, errands, and rest. There’s another 17 hours (24 minus your 7 hours of sleep that day). Currently, with no nonsense like watching TV or posting your latest instagram hit, you have 63 hours left in your week to practice, work out, and otherwise enjoy your life. For me, a good week of working on myself as a golfer includes about 40 hours of practice, and another 5 or so of workouts. That seems doable, right? That leaves 18 hours of free time throughout the week! But what have we not included in this breakdown? Time spent with family, friends, significant others. Time spent on hobbies - which you probably won’t have until you make it to the tour, sorry - and watching TV, playing video games, or reading. And did I forget to mention that a lot of that practice time will be after a long shift at work, when you’re already tired and feel like taking a nap?
There just aren’t enough hours in the week to chase your dream and live a normal life. So that begs the question.
How bad do you want it?
There are so many other things I could speak to that play a role in the life of a starting professional golfer. At the end of the day, what’s important to know is that this life is so much more than just learning to make as many birdies as possible. It is, at its core, business. Time management, scheduling, budgeting, planning, organizing, communications, financial planning and management, and execution all play a part in the success of the operation that is the professional golfer.
My business degree from Florida Southern College was never intended to help me start a business. I always wanted to be a professional golfer. What I didn’t know when I was 18 was that being a professional golfer IS starting a business. I’ve learned so much over the last 2 years, and I know I have a lot more to learn. As the founder, president, and CEO of Michael VanDerLaan, Professional Golfer, the one thing I continue to lean on is this; the deeper I get into this venture, the more I realize there is nothing else I’d rather be doing.
I want it, bad.
Michael VanDerLaan is a professional golfer from Southbury, Connecticut. He is currently competing on mini tours throughout the United States and chasing his goal of being the world's number 1 ranked golfer. Michael currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida.