The Mini Tour Grind
You used to be able to make a decent living on the mini tours. Finish top 20 on the money list and you could bring in $40K+, top 10 - $50K+, and the leader would take in six-figures no problem. The mini tours used to be a good spot to launch your career, kind of like an entry level job. Today, the mini tours act more like an unpaid or minimally paid internship. It’s a necessary evil for anyone trying to make it on the PGA Tour but not a place where you want to spend much time. So why do players bother with mini tours? Well, for many, basically anyone who didn’t make it through Q-School, it’s their only option.
Chris has spent the last month chasing mini tour events and PGA Tour qualifiers in Texas, Florida and Louisiana. Up until last weekend, we’ve been on our own separate grinds chasing careers and paychecks. Last Friday, on the way home from one of my work trips, Chris called to ask if I would come caddy for him the next day. He was playing in the Adams Pro Tour event in Louisiana. Due to storms and wet conditions they were forced to play the last 36 holes on Saturday and Chris was looking for some free labor and a co-pilot for the 8-hour drive home. At first I thought he was joking, it was 4:30pm and I was in San Antonio with no golf clothes. But, I’ve come to learn that most things in our life will be unplanned and it is best if I just go with the flow.
Spontaneity is something I’ve had to embrace the last 4 years. Chris rarely knows his schedule more than a few weeks out and even that can change at the drop of a hat if a Monday goes well or weather pushes him to a different tournament. I’ve always been a planner so this has been a bit of an adjustment for me and a growing pain in our marriage. However, to his credit, this spontaneity has provided us with some pretty cool trips and experiences. My caddy trips to Argentina and Puerto Rico, and even our honeymoon, have all been planned in the last hours – and I’ve loved every single one! So, when Chris asked if I thought I could make an 8pm flight out of Dallas, I figured I could at least give it a shot. My flight from San Antonio didn’t land until 6pm so I would have about an hour to find my car, drive home to unpack and repack, and then make it back to the airport.
By the time I arrived in Mandeville, Louisiana on Friday night, Chris had already had a pretty long week. He arrived at the course on Monday afternoon after an 8-hour drive and played practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday. Along with the first round on Wednesday came afternoon storms and a cold front. The rest of the week consisted of bad weather and delays. By Friday at dark, they had just barely gotten in the first two rounds of the tournament. Luckily, I brought the sunshine with me from Texas for the 36 holes on Saturday.
Saturday was a lot of fun; the sun was shining and we were deep in the beautiful bayous of Louisiana. Chris got hot early with 5 birdies in his first 6 holes and went on to make 11 birdies that day without making a putt outside of 6 feet. It's fun to watch when anybody is hitting it that good but it’s even more fun when it’s your husband. Chris ended up shooting 71-72-69-70 for the tournament and placed T14 in a field of 156 players. A few 3-putts and a couple of tired mistakes on Saturday kept his score from being much lower but overall it was a positive week.
Now, I want to put this week into perspective. After 6 days of busting his ass, Chris walked away with a profit of $96.50. The mini tour payouts are top heavy and flatten out quickly, structured to dangle a proverbial carrot in front of many donkeys. The carrot being a first-place prize of $20,000-$50,000, and the donkeys being the mini tour players. This is the essence of the mini tour grind and as Chris says, “if you don’t like it, play better.”
- Tournament Entry Fee: -$1,300
- Hotel (split with a buddy): -$240
- Gas: -$70
- Caddy’s Flight: -$136 (having your wife on the bag, priceless)
- Winnings: +$1,842.50
- Earnings net expenses: +$92.50