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Undercover Pro: What I Take Home From A $100,000 Cheque - Australian Golf Digest Undercover Pro: What I Take Home From A $100,000 Cheque - Australian Golf Digest

Ever wonder why so many guys in their 40s are still grinding away?

What follows is not another pro complaining about being underpaid or calling for more money. I know I have it good. However, it really bugs me when people think I’m living on easy street because of my spot on the moneylist. What I “earn” and what I “get” are two very different numbers.

As independent contractors, pro golfers take care of their own travel and lodging (although we do receive courtesy cars each week). I fly commercially because going private on the PGA Tour costs about $150,000 per year. Even if you get an endorsement from one of the airlines for your collar, it’s still going to cost you at least $50,000 for the year. I always go first-class because I’m a bigger boy and don’t want to deal with a sore back from getting sardined. Generally, I’m disciplined about booking ahead to get the cheapest tickets. God bless Tom Hoge, who insists on flying economy everywhere he goes.

My caddie’s weekly base rate is $2,000 plus a 10-9-8 breakdown. That means a bonus of 10 percent of my cheque for a win, 9 percent for a top-10 finish and 8 percent for making the cut. Then there’s my swing coach and trainer. I won’t go into the complexities of each deal, but averaging what I pay them yearly, it equates to roughly $2,000 a start combined. I don’t have a personal chef, but a health kick this year has led to me saving money. I’ll make myself a protein-shake in the morning in my hotel or rental home and then prepare a banana and low-sodium peanut butter sandwich for the course. Dinner I usually do for cheap; I’ll grab a late lunch from player dining that holds me over or pick up a pre-made salad with grilled chicken for about $15 at a grocery store. Of course, there are some guys who are extremely social. Paul Casey, back when he played on our tour, was a guy who would go out four or five times during a tournament week and had a reputation for picking up the bill.

Then, every tour player’s favourite subject: taxes. Out the wazoo. For us in the US the federal income tax is 37 percent. The state income tax where a tournament is played is usually another 7 percent (though it’s much, much worse when we’re in the United Kingdom or Australia). Ever wonder why most tour players (myself included) live in Florida, Nevada and Texas? Zero percent income tax. I have no idea what those Arizona boys are doing. Yeah, great golf weather, awesome courses and good towns, but 4.5 percent state income taxes will do a number on your bank account.

So, let’s say I have a good week at a non-signature event, about 20th or so. Maybe a little more than $100,000.

That means:
Flights: $800
Accommodation: $3,200
Caddie: $10,000 (eight percent plus weekly rate)
Coach and trainer: $2,000
Food: $200
Federal: $37,000
Tournament state: $7,000

Meaning, I take home $39,800 from what is published as $100,000. I won’t put a number on it, but I also try to be good to the locker-room attendant and others who help us every week with solid tips.

Now, the above does not account for a lot of the financial perks that come my way. The past two years I brought in a little more than $360,000 in endorsement money. One of my sponsors covers my annual fees at the club I belong to back home, and because I’m a tour player at a club that was trying to build up its arsenal of ‘famous’ people, they waived my initiation fee when I joined. Of course, I don’t pay for my equipment or clothes. The tour also has a good pension program once we hit 50. I know I live a charmed life.

Still, if you’re wondering why so many guys in their 40s are still grinding away on tour (to say nothing of the senior circuit), it’s because early retirement – even with the tour’s pension – is not an option for most of us. We love what we do, but we’ve got bills to pay, and as you see from this breakdown of my expenses, there are a lot of bills. Don’t let anyone tell you the PGA Tour is not divided between the haves and the have-nots. It’s the haves and have-mores.