USGA, R&A amend rules to allow sponsorships for amateurs
After multiple months of discussion, golf's two governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, officially changed their rules regarding amateur status, reports Golf Channel's Brentley Romine.
The new rules will eliminate restrictions on advertising, expenses, and sponsorship relationships. Amateur players are still prohibited from playing as a professional, accepting payment for giving instruction, and accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional programs. Amateurs will still be unable to accept prize money that exceeds $1,000 or money in a handicap competition, but this now only applies to tee-to-hole competitions. For example, amateurs can accept payment for long-drive, putting, or skills competitions.
Perhaps the most relevant change is the ability for amateurs to accept sponsorships prior to turning professional. Tiger Woods famously left college after two years to go pro, allowing him to accept a deal with Nike.
In the past year, multiple states have been working to pass legislation allowing college athletes to financially benefit from their image. In June, the NCAA adopted a temporary policy that waives the majority of its NIL-related restrictions. The USGA is following a similar path to ensure more opportunities, which should open the door for highly regarded players to feel less pressure to leave college and turn professional immediately.
"Golf is unique in its broad appeal to both recreational and competitive players," said Craig Winter, USGA senior director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status.
"This was emphasized in the feedback we received earlier this year and we believe these updates will help simplify these rules and ensure the long-term health of the amateur game, not only to those who compete at the highest level of amateur golf, but for the millions of golfers at every age and skill level who enjoy competitive events at their home course."
The update will officially go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.