Amateur sponsorship in golf will end 'cloak and dagger' era

A move to allow amateur golfers to secure sponsorship and publicly promote it has been warmly welcomed in Scotland, with one player hailing the end of a “cloak and dagger” era in the sport.
Kilmacolm's Matthew Clark pictured in action in the 2019 Men's Home Internationals at Lahinch. Picture: Courtesy of GUIKilmacolm's Matthew Clark pictured in action in the 2019 Men's Home Internationals at Lahinch. Picture: Courtesy of GUI
Kilmacolm's Matthew Clark pictured in action in the 2019 Men's Home Internationals at Lahinch. Picture: Courtesy of GUI

The proposal has been put on the table by the R&A and USGA as part of a bid to modernise the Rules of Amateur Status, which govern the game worldwide.

A ban on sponsorship of individuals in the amateur ranks has often been questioned due to the fact it has created an uneven playing field in events involving players being supported through national associations.

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Under the new proposal, budding young talents out with those setups would be free to secure financial support and also be allowed to use social media as a promotion tool.

“The biggest hotspot would be America and, if you look at your basketball players and NFL players coming through the college system, they are all supported,” said Scotland captain and career amateur Matthew Clark of the plan to open up sponsorship to non-pros.

“LeBron James had god knows how much money thrown at him in the build up to his professional career, so it puts golf more on a level playing field and more up-to-date with what is going on in a sporting society, which is always a positive.”

Feedback is being sought by the game’s governing bodies to a series of significant proposals aimed at modernising the amateur status guidelines along the lines already accomplished in the Rules of Golf.

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“I think the sponsorship proposal will allow some players who have struggled in the past where their national body isn’t wealthy enough to support them too much to now be able to attract the support of, say, manufacturers to help them with costs to play in the bigger events and showcase their talents,” added Kilmacolm man Clark.

“They will be able to do so without it being cloak and dagger because I am pretty sure it has gone on in the past and, with that support, a player might be able to go on and carve out a career that otherwise they might not have been able to enjoy.”

Kieran Cantley had to fund his amateur career as he came through the ranks at Liberton, overcoming the odds when compared to Scotland squad members as he earned a crack in the pro ranks by winning the ProGolf Tour in Germany a year past November.

“I think that is a great thing,” he said of the proposal. “When you are in the Scotland team, they help you out a lot by taking you on trips and whatever.

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“I was having to fund that myself. I was working 25-30 hours a week and caddying two days a week before going to play a practice round on the Friday then 36 holes on the Saturday and Sunday.

“That leaves you mentally drained, but it was the only way I could afford to do it, so you just had to get on with it.”

Cantley said it is “brilliant” that amateurs look set to be allowed to promote themselves on social media, while Clark, in concurring, said of that: “It was one of the other anchors holding the game back, but golf is now moving in the right direction.”

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