I was out dancing last weekend in Dallas, TX, and in the middle of a two-step my dance partner stopped dead in his tracks absolutely stunned when I told him I was a professional golfer. It’s not a new response, most people don’t meet a professional golfer every day, especially not one in Daisy Dukes that he just dipped to the floor. But, what did surprise me was his next response, “Oh, that makes sense why you can afford to live in California.” Buddy. No.
For the past six months, I shared an apartment in California with two roommates where I worked as a caddie and as a coach for The First Tee. I lived sparingly in order to afford to travel to compete in Texas and Oklahoma, on the Women’s All Pro Tour for a couple months. Even with months of saving, I still wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of funding my dream if I didn’t have friends, family, and host housing in the Texas area.
The Women’s All Pro Tour, or WAPT, is based out of Texas and is what is known as a mini tour. A mini tour is like Triple A baseball, or a farm team in hockey. It is a step on the path to the big Tours.
There is a big difference between the professionals whose names you recognize from the PGA and LPGA who have big contracts, and the professionals whose names you often don’t recognize yet who play on mini tours. There’s Tiger, and Rory, and even Lexi… their bank accounts are just fine. There’s even one story about Justin Thomas that he actually forgot about the 10 million dollar check from the FedEx Cup one year…you’re doing just fine financially if you FORGET about a $10 million dollar bump in your bank account.
The story is a little different for those of us still battling to make a name for ourselves.
I drive a 2007 Saturn Vue. My dad built a shelf in the back for my sticks, and hooked a clothing rack up over the back seat. I have slept on four different beds (and as many different couches) in the last three weeks. I’m glad I remembered to travel with my own pillow at least.
The mini tour life is not luxurious. It is a grind. Many great players give up after a short time just because they get tired of the nomadic life. The inconsistency, the travel, the hotels, the golf courses in the middle of nowhere. The big Tours get to play great golf courses in real cities with much, much bigger purses. My parents don’t know where I am half the time, “sort of close to Dallas in a tiny town called ____,” has been said over the phone too many times.
The mini tours are not exceptionally lucrative, it is typically seen as a step toward a lofty goal. It is a means to an end.
Those that make it from the mini tours, understand the grind. But it is still interesting to see people from outside of the industry automatically thinking every professional golfer has a contract like Rickie Fowler. It’s a different world, but it is an experience I wouldn’t ask to change. I’m learning so much down here, about golf, about my game, and about myself. This season is big for me, and I am so glad I am getting the experience of being a professional golfer on the mini tour circuit this year.