From the outside, Sammy Schmitz is your typical American guy. He’s married, has a couple kids, and schleps to work everyday as a regional director at a healthcare services company. What isn’t typical about this 35-year Wisconsin resident is the opportunity that awaits him next April when he tees it up at Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters. Schmitz earned the opportunity of a lifetime by winning the U.S. Mid-Am Championship victory two weeks ago at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida.
While the victory might give Schmitz the chance to do something that many others only dream about, the expenses that are associated with it come with a hefty price, supposedly. For that reason, his wife setup a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for travel, lodging and practice expenses over the next six months. The big question that faces Schmitz is whether to relocate to a warmer climate as the harsh Wisconsin winters grow nearer.
Officially, the campaign ended two days ago. He’s raised a total of $25,000 from 225 people, which equates to about $111 for each person who donated, all anonymous donors. The last note on the campaign page says it could possibly be opened again if more donations are needed.
For some, starting a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his Masters preparation might seem like a legitimate reason to raise funds for personal use. After all, the website claims to be the “The World’s #1 Personal Crowdfunding Site.” To others though, questions have been posed to whether this violates his amateur status with the USGA, one of the governing bodies for amateur golf in America.
It appears the USGA is okay with campaign, as a spokesman had this to say:
“Raising funds for reasonable competition expenses is permissible under the Rules of Amateur Status as long as a state and/or regional golf association is involved in the administration of the fund and any donations remain anonymous. The USGA has and will continue to work with all parties involved.”
The response from the USGA is interesting to me. I think it’s something that begs the question to what stops other amateur golfers, or athletes, from setting up GoFundMe accounts and raising money for “reasonable competitive expenses.” After the success of this crowdfunding campaign, who’s to say top collegiate golfers won’t attempt to setup a GoFundMe account to raise money for “competitive expenses.” Sure, collegiate golfers are governed by the NCAA and they might have different rules compared to the USGA, but do you think this might open the door to a collegiate athlete trying this in the very near future to try and raise money?
Some in the golf Twitter world had big problems with this. One of my favorite dudes over on Twitter, @ShutFaceGolf, who himself is a competitive amateur golfer who has attempted several times to get into the U.S. Mid-Am, had some really harsh words for Sammy Schmitz.
I agree with much of what Shut Face has to say. First, Schmitz can most likely stay with a member or stay inside the walls of Augusta at one of the cabins for free, or at least much cheaper than a hotel. Second, isn’t this exactly what professional golfers do when they turn pro? Don’t they try to pool money together from friends and family and take on “investors” to pay for tournament entry and travel?
The USGA claims all of the donations need to be “anonymous” in order for it to not violate amateur status. But you know for dang sure friends, family and colleagues were the ones donating the most to that GoFundMe campaign. It seems like a silly rule to allow this to happen and in my opinion borders becoming a professional when you start to take on money like this.
I wish Sammy Schmitz the best of luck in the 2016 Masters. I will surely be watching for what he does because I like to follow how the amateurs perform at Augusta. But I think allowing him to raise funds is really borderline on whether it violates his “amateur” status. Don’t be surprised if he actually returns the money and decides not to accept any of it.
What do you think? Let us know below in the comments or hit us up on Twitter, @Front9Back9.