Sponsor Exempt Player Shoots 54 Over Par

I am sure you read the articles regarding Julio “The Machine” Bell, (self-proclaimed) who received a sponsor’s exempt position for a Web.com Tour event and shot 93-105. Of course he missed the cut, however the plethora of remarks from the golfing world sparked my desire to comment.

As am amateur golfer and a competitor, I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I understand the frustration of the professionals playing with someone who shot 26 strokes more than the leader after the first day. I have played in events where I shot in the low 70s and my playing partner shot in the high 90s. It is a slow, agonizing round where I spent more time looking for golf balls then anything else. However, that was the nature of my event and I stayed focused on playing my game.

Some of the comments I want to highligbt are from a Golfworld article:

However, Bell’s score has generated its share of controversy among players and caddies at this week’s event.

“I will tell you a lot of players are not happy about it,” a caddie told Golf Digest. “Just some local that’s taking a spot from guys who are trying to make a living.” That this is the event right before the first reshuffle hasn’t helped matters.

“It’s (nonsense),” relayed another caddie. “Ken (Looper, a Web.com Tour pro and first alternate) is sitting out because someone paid money to play.”

The caddies oints were not lost on me as they emphasized that these professional tournaments are someone’s lively hood and to have an amateur who shot so poorly take a position was crazy. However, I would suggest that this scenario is no different from any other sponsor exempt player who did not make the cut.

The minor tours continue to use sponsor exemptions for non-professional players. There are numerous players (Jerry Rice, John Smoltz, Jake Owen, Steph Currie, Tony Romo) who are tried to compete while playing golf professionally, but failed to rise to the occasion. However, because these amateurs are famous, the criticism was not as harsh. As a sponsor at the minor golf tours, it is their choice on who they wish to allow to play. Since 1992, the PGA Tour has restricted sponsor exempt players to professionals trying to make a living playing golf. Of course this restriction does not apply to Pro-Am events.

I would pose a question, was it fair to have Michelle Wie received 13 sponsor exempt opportunities to play in Men’s professional events. Starting at age 13, she teed it up and fared well, but only made one cut in 2006. Did she not take 13 positions from players who were trying to make a living at golf. Some would suggest that Wie is a professional golfer, however I would suggest that at the time she was given the exemptions, her situation was no different from Juilo Bell’s.

There is a reason that sponsors are given an opportunity to place a player in a tournament; it is all economics. If the minor tours (and the Major Tours) expect companies to dole out large amounts of money, they should receive something in return. Of course on the PGA Tour, advertising is the biggest return, but what do the sponsors receive for their donation on the minor tours. They are allowed to sponsor any player; professional or not. So for those complaining about the one or two positions that the sponsors use during an event, you should rethink your position. Without the sponsors, there are no minor tours and you do not have the opportunity to make your living at golf.

My last point relates to Pebble Beach on the weekend. The cut occurred after day three. David Duval, a one time world number 1, was behind the leaders by 35 strokes and missed the cut by 22 strokes. As a professional, is Duval really competitive. Should a younger player who had a better opportunity to make the cut been given his position. The short answer is of course not, but I am sure the first alternate at Pebble Beach was pulling their hair out watching some of the players hack their way around the course. In this case, it is a matter of perspective.

My bottom line, if the sponsor exemptions are allowed for any player, professional or not, then complaining that an amateur played poorly and ‘took’ a position from a professional is nothing but white noise. If Julio Bell was given the position fair and square, then there should be nothing to complain about. Sponsorship exemptions are part of the golfing business and as such complaining about them is a waste of time and effort.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

11 thoughts on “Sponsor Exempt Player Shoots 54 Over Par

  1. There are many sides to this issue. In this case, the player clearly wasn’t a good golfer and should not have been given a spot. However, even good golfers can have rounds that defy logic. Golf can be a cruel game for everyone. Charlie Rymer is an ex-PGA Tour player who played in this week’s Champions Tour. He shot 87 on the last day. Almost bogey golf by a professional. This just shows you what kind of score can be shot by an amateur on a professional stage. This isn’t bowling that has gutters to stop the ball. In golf, your bad shots keep going and going and going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Anyone can have a poor round and I am not sure pointing fingers is not the way to go. I think suggesting he should not have had the spot after the tournament is not really a way to change the situation. Thoughts?

      Cheers Jim


  2. It depends on how you look at it. I have no problem with sponsors using their invites how they see fit. In this case, however, the issue seems to be that he paid for his spot. It wasn’t given to him as a normal sponsor invite would be. That is the problem. It would be like Steph Curry paying for his spot in that tournament, which is not what happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim, valid points for both sides of the argument. Imagine if the referee put the group with the amateur on the clock and then administered a two-shot penalty for slow play. No sweat off the amateur’s back, but the professional playing partners would obviously be livid and there’d be serious egg on the face of the sponsor for putting this hack in the field. Think they’d do it again?

    I’m not sure the referee would have the guts to do that but it would send a not so subtle message.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian

      I would suggest that if the amateur is making his shots and the group is falling behind, I do not think that is a reason for slow play. There are many opportunities for professionals to be put on the clock and they don’t. It is an interesting topic for sure.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Jim, yeah, the problem probably wasn’t slow play. The guys just viewed him as taking a slot for someone more deserving.

        I remember the ’92 Kemper Open where NFL QB Mark Rypien took a sponsor’s exemption. He was a 1-handicap and shot 80-91. He took a little grief for “taking a spot” but they paired him with Greg Norman and John Daly and the crowds were huge. Guess the sponsor got what they wanted.



        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you on this. No one is required to sponsor any tournament. The fact that they get perks for doing so is fine by me and I would have more of a problem if limiting those perks reduced sponsorship. Those people trying to earn a living at golf would have even less opportunity to make money. Anyone complaining is simply not thinking straight.

    Liked by 1 person

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