Playing golf for a living isn't impossible. It's just next to impossible.
Earning a PGA Tour card isn't 10-gazillion-to-one. Only about half that.
There are no roundabout ways to make it on tour. You don't get a job because you're 7-foot-1 and someone needs a backup center. You can't force your way to a card on kick coverage. There are no once-a-week putting specialists to come out of the bullpen and sink that 12-foot double-breaker with the tournament on the line.
Williamsville's Jake Katz, dominant winner of last week's Buffalo District Golf Association Individual, plans to turn pro following the U.S. Amateur. Yeah, he has the gawd-awful disease. Just like former BDGA champions Jamie Miller and David Patronik had it. And former New York Amateur champion Matt Thomas. And former NCAA champion E.J. Pfister. And most anyone else who's ever put up a few sub-par rounds, which narrows the field to about 100,000 around the globe.
There's a romanticism to the words "starving artist" but no such sympathetic term for the average pro golfer. Justin Regier shot 62 at the 2007 Porter Cup, contended for the title. No other recent local amateur seemed better prepared to ascend on the pro circuit.
Regier's still at it. He's playing the Canadian PGA Tour. And do you know what he's made this season in eight events? Try $571. Plus the 87 cents he spent on dinner.
Regier hasn't cashed a paycheck since Cinco de Mayo. He's missed cuts by one stroke (twice), two, three (twice) and four. If what doesn't kill you makes you stronger then Regier can bench press Ontario.
Trying to be among the best at golf is like trying to be elite at breathing. An estimated 60 million worldwide play the game and there's no telling who might be good at it.
You can be sculpted like a linebacker or cut like a power forward. But built like a golfer? Are we talking squatty Ian Woosnam or lanky Steve Stricker? Wispy Camilo Villegas or lumpy Tim Herron? Former Porter Cupper Danny Green, a multitime Tennessee state champ, bounced like Jell-O, swung like Charles Barkley and could throw 67s at you like they were darts.
The numbers keep growing. There are more than 6,000 players listed in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (Katz is No. 228). Some of those are mid-amateurs without pro aspirations, guys like regular Porter Cup participants Nathan Smith and Skip Berkmeyer. Most of the rest probably have designs on going pro. And how many of them do you think will ever make more than $100,000 playing the game? Fifty? Ten?
There are tours all over where a guy can make a couple grand here and there. Thomas, Patronik and Miller all tried their hand at the eGolf Tour. All you had to do was finish top 40 to earn back your $1,300 entry fee. Finish around top 10 and you'd make another grand on top of that before you deduct your budget hotel, your cheap meals and fill up the tank so you can do it all over again next week.
The PGA Tour is where it's at. Make it there and you can live the sweet life. So long as you're good enough to make some cuts and throw in the occasional high finish. All you have to do to get there is be one of the top 25 out of 1,000 at the four stages of Qualifying School. Or finish top 25 on the Nationwide Tour. Or qualify for the U.S. Open, win it and ride the exemption.
Katz knows the odds he's facing but who can blame him for giving it a go? Who knows why some guys click. How is it that someone like Zach Johnson perseveres for years and then wins the Masters?
Besides, there are tougher ways to earn a living.
Like trying to make it as a caddie.