The increasingly bitter divide between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour is now impacting a high-profile event at one of America’s most prestigious clubs. Players who signed with LIV will not be welcome at next month’s Pro-Member tournament at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.
The field for the Pro-Member — held annually on the Monday after the conclusion of the Honda Classic at nearby PGA National — is often the envy of many Tour stops. The two-person team event draws dozens of the game’s superstars. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay played in 2022. Last year’s edition also featured more than a dozen players who later signed with LIV, none of whom will be present at the 2023 Pro-Member on Feb. 27.
The decision not to invite LIV players was made by Jimmy Dunne, the president of Seminole. Dunne played last year with Dustin Johnson, who joined LIV in June. Previously, he partnered with Phil Mickelson, who also left for the Saudi-funded circuit. Dunne is veteran Wall Street figure who lost scores of friends in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, where his company Sandler O’Neill (now known as Piper Sandler) was based. This year he plans to play with Max Homa.
“We are doing what we have always done,” Dunne told Golfweek on Thursday. “PGA Tour players get the first priority. This event has always been supported by the PGA Tour. We try to make this a special and unique day for Tour players.”
Players who defected to LIV were immediately suspended by the PGA Tour and some, including Johnson, resigned their Tour membership. Other LIV players who competed in the ’22 Pro-Member include Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen, who partnered NFL great Tom Brady.
Bubba Watson, Hudson Swafford, Harold Varner III, Peter Uihlein, Andy Ogletree and Cameron Tringale were also in the field.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland embraces Seminole president Jimmy Dunne on the 18th green during a practice round prior to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the Old Course St. Andrews on September 28, 2022, in St Andrews, Scotland. Dunne made the decision to keep LIV Golf members. (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)
“Candidly, I have a pretty good relationship with most people,” Dunne said. “These guys had a choice to make, but they’ve made it. That’s it. I’m not going to say something nasty about guys who participated in the past.”
Dunne has been president of Seminole since 2012 and was recently appointed to the board of the PGA Tour, where he joins two fellow Seminole members, Ed Herlihy and Mark Flaherty. Flaherty, a Goldman Sachs executive, won the Pro-Member last year with Cantlay. Dunne described his appointment to the board as “a war-time deal,” a reference to the ongoing battle with LIV. Other Seminole members prominent in the golf world include Mike Davis, the former head of the USGA, and Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America.
The Pro-Member began in 2004 and quickly became one of the most sought-after invitations for Tour players, many of whom live near the club. The 2014 field famously included all four major winners from the previous year: Mickelson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Jason Dufner, who posed for a photograph with their trophies.