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Scott Stallings: The Value of a Win on the PGA Tour

What would happen if in 20 minutes you were able to check off pretty much your entire list of business goals for the year?

Winning the Greenbrier Classic last week after a sudden-death playoff has been like that. And then some.

Back in January with only two PGA tournaments under my belt, I wrote about what success would look like to me as a rookie. My goals were pretty simple: to make as much money on the course as possible (which helps me keep my spot on the Tour) and to play myself into upper-echelon events like Majors and Invitationals.

Check and check!

Golfers don't have nearly the same kind of job security that some other athletes enjoy. We don't sign contracts guaranteeing we're going to play for the next five years. And just because you play, doesn't mean you get paid. ESPN writer Rick Reilly wrote an excellent article recently about how in the world of sports, golfers are some of the few athletes who have play-for-pay jobs. (As you may recall, I played my first five events without earning a dime.)

When I won the tournament on Sunday, several things happened that have a huge effect on the business side of my golf career:

  • I now have "champion" status on Tour, which is something I'll never lose. This means that when the PGA has to decide how to fill the field for a particular tournament, I'm in the category that gets first pick.
  • I get to keep my job! Finishing first and winning a purse of $1.08 million means I have some measure of job security -- at least for the next two and half years. I could miss every cut at every tournament next year and still keep my spot on Tour.
  • I've secured a spot in high-level tournaments like the World Golf Championship this week, the Masters next year, and other events where the purses are huge but the field is a whole lot smaller.
  • I have more negotiating leverage with sponsors. It's very rare for a company to sponsor a rookie for two years; after all, no one knows if you'll survive more than one year on Tour. So now my agent is in the process of renegotiating my contracts -- and dealing with a lot of new options for next year.
Of course there are other changes that take some getting used to.

I was invited to my first press conference on Tuesday. When I went out to practice on Wednesday, it took me 35 minutes to walk the 200 yards between the 18th green and the driving range. My caddie finally said to me: "Man, I took for granted that no one knew who we were before." The fact that I suddenly have so many fans who want my autograph is incredible, but I'm more amazed at who was out there -- golf fans ranging in age from 5 to 80 years old.

And this week I'll play among the most exclusive field of golfers in the world.

Everyone always says that you have to be lucky to win a golf tournament. I totally agree. Obviously, there's some skill involved. But at the end of the day I play a game where I have to put a little round ball into a little round hole. You have to love the game to be able to survive both the weeks where no one watches you and you're not earning any money, and the weeks where you get a lucky break and everything works out the way you want it to. Fortunately, I do love it. I can't imagine doing anything else.

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