LA QUINTA, Calif. – So, you want to play in the American Express pro-am? This bucket-list experience can be yours if you’ve got $30,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
After a one year absence due to COVID-19, the pro-am is back this week just as it has been every year in the tournament’s 63-year history.
The Amex actually was approved for a pro-am last year, but called it off shortly before the event because organizers weren’t comfortable encouraging non-essential travel when hospitals were full. That lead to pent-up demand to participate this year with many of the amateurs who previously signed up asking for their spot to be reserved. By August, the field was full.
“We’re not taking out ads,” said tournament director Pat McCabe, who noted that the field is made up of returning business, inquiries from word of mouth, and current players bringing clients and friends along. There are various sponsorships and packages available, but the off-the-street buy-in is $30,000. Other than the AT&T Pebble Beach, which tends to be on an invite-only basis, there’s no other opportunity to play alongside a Tour pro during competitive rounds.
“It’s an experience you just can’t get,” McCabe said. “It would be like you get to be the catcher at a Dodgers game.”
Where else in professional sports can you rub elbows with the pros, have a caddie with your name on the back of its bib and flashing on the electronic leaderboard? McCabe describes it as being a PGA Tour player for a week.
Once an amateur participant gets on the grounds on tournament-week Monday, he is afforded a sampling of what it’s like to live in the land of milk and honey that is the PGA Tour: park in the player lot, access to the player dining facility with a guest, practice-range facility and practice round access to all three courses, a tee prize package, various hospitality such as a BMW Driving Experience this year at Thermal Track and the pro-am draft party held at the 18th green Champions Pavilion on Stadium Course as well as a VIP hospitality lounge during Friday and Saturday’s post-round concerts (Marron 5 and Brad Paisley), and three official tournament rounds with six different Tour pros.
Bob Diamond, the former Barclays CEO, has played in plenty of these affairs and said what sets the Amex pro-am apart from the others is that participants are paired with a different golfer every day. On Friday, he witnessed Will Zalatoris shooting 61.
“I made six net birdies and he canceled them all out,” said Diamond, who will play PGA West’s Stadium Course on Saturday with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. “Either I was useless or his inspiration.”