July 27, 2010
There are a couple ways to get on the PGA Tour. You can practice double-digit hours every day of your young life, sacrificing time with friends and family in a single-minded pursuit of your life's dream.
Or you can sponsor an entire tournament and give yourself an exemption. Whichever.
Meet Ray Halbritter, CEO of Nation Enterprises, which includes the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, the name sponsor of the Turning Stone Resort Championship. Turning Stone is scheduled for the first week of August, and guess who's going to be in the field when they tee off?
Halbritter has passed a PGA of America player ability test, and after he did so, he began looking toward snagging one of the four exemptions each PGA Tour event can offer. "I had a conversation with the people in charge — myself — and I got lucky and approved to play," Halbritter told assembled smiling media at a tournament event.
Now, while there are certainly more talented golfers who could take the exemption, it's not like this is anything new. Tournaments dole out exemptions to, shall we say, special cases all the time. And Halbritter isn't a total hacker. He's taken his handicap from a mid-teens to a 2. But he was careful to note that playing in a PGA Tour event isn't like a Saturday morning with the guys.
"It’s one thing to play a game and to play it well and to play it with your friends," he said. "But when you add on the distractions, if you will, of the people around you and the pressure of having to perform, you have to play good."
Halbritter also noted that he averages about 78 to 80 at the Atunyote course that will host the tournament, and his driving average is only about 265 yards. Yikes.
So, yeah, it's easy to write off Halbritter as a guy who bought his way onto the PGA Tour. But hey, if I had the chance to do that, I sure would, and so would you. So, best of luck to you, sir. Hit 'em straight ... and have the employees dive in front of those balls headed out of bounds.
(Visor tip to Jeff C. for the tip.)