Rule 3-1 in the Rules of Amateur Status states that if an amateur golfer plays in a competition where prize money is offered, without waiving his right to prize money, he forfeits his amateur status. If a golfer forfeits his amateur status, he cannot participate in competitions as an amateur until he is reinstated to amateur status by the USGA. Inquiries received by the USGA indicate that some golfers have misconceptions about Rule 3-1. The following examples are designed to clarify whether a player has played for prize money and therefore breached Rule 3-1.
If a player enters a competition by completing an entry form on which he specifically indicates he is a professional (e.g., checking a box indicating he is entering the competition as a professional) or if the competition is limited to professional golfers, it does not matter if prize money is awarded in the competition or if the player wins any money in the competition. The player would be in breach of Rule 2-1, because he has entered as a professional and would forfeit his amateur status.
If a player enters a competition where prize money is to be awarded, but there is nothing on the entry form that requires the player to indicate whether he is entering as a professional or an amateur, he is deemed to be playing for prize money in breach of Rule 3-1. This Rule applies whether the competition is a single-stage competition or a multiple-stage competition (i.e., qualifying rounds and a final competition), where a player must qualify at an early stage to participate in the final stage, even if prize money is only awarded at the final stage. The Rule also applies whether or not the player wins any money. The only way a player can participate in these types of competitions and not forfeit his amateur status is by waiving his right to prize money before the first stage of the competition.
If a player enters a competition by completing an entry form and checking a box indicating he is entering as an amateur, then he is deemed not to be playing for prize money if prize money is offered to some participants (e.g., a player enters the U.S. Open as an amateur). In this case, there is no need for him to waive his right to prize money before the first stage of the competition.
If you have any questions concerning how you should enter a competition where cash prizes will be awarded at any stage of a competition, please contact the USGA Amateur Status Staff at (908) 326-1025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.