“the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Theodore Roosevelt


It’s really hard to get to the tour, and even if you’re lucky enough to earn a ticket to the show, the line of players trying to take that ticket away from you and use it for themselves is seemingly endless. We evaluate careers on money and wins but how should the career of a player who didn’t win often or at all but was able to play the tour for a long time be measured? Should a piece of respect be reserved for the player who plays 10, 15 or 20 years on tour?




The majority of PGA tour players have at least some collegiate golf experience. When you combine Dl and Dll men’s golf, you get around 4500 players in any given year. If one quarter of those graduate annually, there is an influx of over 1000 young golfers who could seek a life in professional golf. 

While many may not play, consider last year there were 87 All-Americans between Dl and Dll men’s golf. Good players are coming out every year. 


The Webdotcom tour is the direct feeder system to the PGA tour. On average 140 players compete full time during the regular season for 25 tour cards and another 25 are handed out in the Final’s series. It’s not easy to get onto the Web, in fact, it’s really hard.

Feeding into the Webdotcom tour are the MacKenzie tour-Canada, PGA tour Latino America and the PGA tour China. The “mini-tours” are still kicking as well. Remember the gut wrenching Q-school for the PGA tour, well that experience has moved to the Web where in excess of 1000 players each year try to get onto the tour that is the route to the PGA tour. 

Other prominent tours around world include the European tour, the Australasian tour, the Korean tour and the Japan tour. While these tours succeed in their own right, many of the best  players from these tours either move to the PGA tour or share time between their home tour and the US.




PGA tour Make-up

The PGA tour is made up of about 130 exempt players each year (top 125 and a few other exceptions) plus the conditionally exempt group which includes the 50 card winners from the Web. About 70 players from this group compete in 15 or more events trying to steal an exempt spot from the 130. A spot won for one player is a spot lost for another. 

Basically you have to stay in the top 2/3rds  on tour each and every year.

Games are much more fragile than most would think. All it takes is a minor injury, the wrong focus on mechanics, a change in an equipment deal, a change in workout regimen which unknowingly alters the swing, a diet, trouble at home or even just a few missed putts at the wrong time and an exemption can be lost. Tenure on the tour is not assured and players are lined up trying to take it away from you. Lose your nerve at the wrong time, don’t take advantage of the good week and all of a sudden you’re gone, fighting your way back. 






Career starts

 Years  Career starts (assuming 25 per year*)
 10  250
 15  375
 20  500

*Exempt players average 25-26 PGA tour starts per year.


It takes a while to amass a lot of starts. In a minute I will share a list of the 324 players who have played 250 or more events since 1980. Since it takes so long to accumulate career starts, players who began their career in 2008 or later likely have not made this threshold, yet. But before we get to the list, let’s take a look at some numbers regarding 1980-2008.

How many players were able to get their card during this 28 year period?

The average number of rookies on the tour each year is about 22-23. The remainder of the 70 conditionally exempt players trying to get one of the exempt spots have had their card before. 

In an effort to be conservative, I will use 175 players with a card in 1980 and 22 rookies per year since. This means about 791 or roughly 800 players have had their card since 1980. That’s 800 out of the thousands and thousands to have tried over that 28 year period to get a PGA tour card. This alone is an accomplishment; they’ve been to the show.

With respect to the 800 card holders, consider the following graph:

1980 to present ranked by Career Starts

 Number of Career Starts  Number of Players (N)  Percentage (N/800)*
 250  324     41%
 300  269  34
 400  161  20
 500  86  11
 600  35  4
 700  8  1
 800  1  .1

*represents the percentage of the 800 card bearing players with this many career starts or more.

# Note-this does not include other major tour starts.                                                                

## Note-Several of the older players competed prior to 1980-these starts are not included




Some of these may surprise you.

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23 thoughts on “JOURNEYMAN 123

  1. Daniel M Malloy says:

    Thanks for sharing this list! I’m surprised at some players names not on the list!
    Guys like Bill Glasson (7 wins) or Dan Forsman (5 wins)…shows how hard it is to keep your card for more than 10 years!

  2. Pingback: 'Journeyman' is not a bad word - Golf NewsGolf News

  3. Brother Logan says:

    Very interesting……thanks for taking the time to put it together. I will remind Gene Sauers, when I see him on the practice tee……#106 with 466 starts. Wears me out just thinking about it. Gene keeps trying to tell me it is a ‘real’ job.

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  10. Richard Bailey says:

    I just stumbled onto your blog, great stuff. Your earlier posts of comparing the eras was spot on. My earliest memory of golf is as a 5 yr. old being startled by my normally reserved father yelling and coming out of his easy chair when Jack hits the flagstick at the 17th at Pebble in 1972. That began my love/hate affair with this game that I have passed on to my children, experiencing their joy of discovering the subtle beauty of this game. While maddening, this game gives more than it takes if you just remember it is a game for fun. I played 9 yesterday here in Ohio in 30 degree weather!

    Great writing, insights, commentary. Looking forward to reading more.

  11. Pingback: The Journeyman Pro | The Recreational Golfer

  12. Bill Benjamin says:

    One of the most interesting pieces I’ve ever read about this sport that I have been playing and loving for 60 years. Longevity on the tour is huge, and you were so right to identify all these guys who labored on the tour for so many years, yourself included of course. Yes. The credit indeed belongs to the man in the arena, one that is so difficult to enter and then to stay in. Thanks, Phil.

  13. Michael Sagan says:

    Excellent piece ! Great stuff. Many ingredients are required to make this list…. passion for the game has to be near the top.

  14. Bill Shamleffer says:

    Actually you are tied for 121, since the list of players starts on row 2, and you are tied with the player listed on row 122.
    You, Choi & Pooley are all tied for 121st most starts since 1980.

  15. Pingback: 'Journeyman' is not a bad word | Golf Channel

  16. Phil, Phil, PHIL! Miss you old friend. Yes it was me,(Joe Healey) in the Jacksonville, airport last year. Wish we could have sat for a while and caught up. Have you heard from Mike at all? Like to talk with him also. Anyway, drop me a line if you would at: Love to hear from you, Joe

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