USGA rules on amateur status come into question in Blue Hill CC club championship
CANTON, Mass – File this story under “B” for bizarre, or for Blue Hill.
Keen observers of accomplished amateur players from Massachusetts might recognize the name Jake Shuman, who played out of Blue Hill CC for a few years, however, he never won any Mass Golf events, but placed high on a few leaderboards.
Well, in 2018, after graduating from Duke University, Shuman decided to pursue his dream and started his career playing professional golf, and things did not go well. Shuman joins a long list of talented Bay State amateurs who’ve turned pro but failed to cash any checks, which basic requirement is shoot four consecutive days of scores that start with a “6.”
With great fanfare and best wishes from Mass Golf, which always goes over-the-top publishing feel-good, puff piece stories on any player who participates in Mass Golf events, https://www.massgolf.org/news/20-shuman-pgatour/ Shuman finally Monday qualified to play in his first PGA Tour event on August 13, 2020, at the Wyndham Championship, in Greensboro, North Carolina, offering prize money over $6 million. https://www.pgatour.com/competition/2020/wyndham-championship/leaderboard.html
Jake Shuman’s PGA Tour profile shows he struggled in 2018 on the Mckenzie Tour, then early in 2020 qualified for the 2020-2021 PGA Latinoamerica Tour, missing the cut in the Estrelle del Mar Open in March 2020. https://www.pgatour.com/players/player.54759.jake-shuman.html
It’s been a brutal battle for Shuman trying to play professional golf for a living with total PGA development tour career earnings to date showing $3,775. Shuman’s only victory as a pro came in the 2020 Delaware Open. He finished third in the 2019 Mass Open at Vesper CC pocketing a few thousand dollars.
Early in 2021 Shuman realized that pursuing his golf dream was over, and he notified the ruling authority in golf – USGA – that he was seeking reinstatement as an amateur. The process for amateur reinstatement happens all the time, and the process is simple, but requires a mandatory one-year grace period before playing golf tournaments as an amateur.
Shuman becomes another failed Bay State golf statistic, and according to strict USGA guidelines is not eligible to participate in amateur events until after March 2, 2022.
It’s a clear path for Shuman to follow, but this weekend things got strange!
From August 6-8, 2021, Jake Shuman competed in the Blue Hill CC club championship, which format was one-day qualifier, then the top-32 enter four grueling match play contests to determine a winner.
Shuman is a member in good standing at Blue Hill CC, but most of the 50 competitors (including me) playing for the prestigious club championship title last weekend were shocked seeing Shuman entered as a player.
“He should not be allowed to play,” said one member, requesting his name not be used. “You’re either a pro or amateur. You can’t be both.”
“Why? What’s he trying to prove?” said another member, not wishing to be named. “It’s not a classy move for Blue Hill.”
Golf is a sport with hundreds of rules that prides itself on integrity, honesty and honor, so how does a pro golfer like Shuman, who only a few months ago played in a PGA Tour event featuring $6 million in prize money, go from there to competing with a field of amateur golfers at a private country club just outside Boston?
Good question? Well, here’s the answer from the tippy-top of the USGA, Rob Ockenfuss, Senior Manager, Rules of Golf & Amateur Status.
“The Rules of Amateur Status consider someone who has applied for reinstatement to be an applicant for reinstatement (A/R). An A/R is a former professional/non-amateur seeking reinstatement and not yet an amateur golfer,” Rob Ockenfuss, said in an email from his office at United States Golf Association Headquarters in Liberty Corner, New Jersey. “An A/R can play in “open” competitions, that is, open to amateurs and non-amateurs.”
“Like any other competition, it’s up to the Committee in charge to decide who is eligible, whether based on amateur status, handicap index, or some other stipulation. If a competition is limited to amateur golfers, a professional or A/R would not be eligible, unless the Committee decided it was OK for him to play (in which case, it’s not an event limited to amateurs).”
Before the tournament teed off the Blue Hill CC pro shop received questions from members wondering how the most important event on the 2021 golf calendar could go forward without it being considered “tainted” and the field “compromised” with Shuman playing. Nothing was changed and Shuman played. Apparently, the eight-member Blue Hill CC golf committee, which includes the pro and general manager, voted unanimously to allow Shuman, also known as A/R, to play.
The winner of the Blue Hill CC club championship receives a trophy, his name on a plaque and about $400 pro shop credit.
The winner of the 2021 Blue Hill CC club championship was not JAKE SHUMAN!
In a thrilling 18-hole finals match against Ben Kelly, the golf coach at Milton High School, Shuman lost 2-down.
“I just played 110 holes of golf and I’m tired right now,” said Kelly, while receiving congratulatory fist-bumps from dozens of members, after shooting a blistering 5-under par 67. “I’m just out here enjoying myself this week so this (win) is something to enjoy.”
In a post-round interview, Shuman was a bit defensive when asked why he decided to enter the tournament and if his presence may have “compromised” the field of amateurs.
‘I entered the tournament because I like to play tournament golf, I know the course well having played here for 20 years and checked with the USGA about eligibility,” said Shuman without elaborating that the club championship is the biggest tournament of the year for low handicap golfers. “There have been other club championships where pros have competed. No one says anything when Phil Mickelson plays in a club championship at one of his courses. I was approved to play by the golf committee. It’s not the outcome I wanted, but Ben (Kelly) played an incredible round of golf today to win.”