The Sure-Shank Exemption
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

For the thousands of golfers aspiring to play in a PGA Tour event, see the example of Ray Halbritter, CEO of Turning Stone Resort & Casino and founder of the PGA Tour’s Turning Stone Resort Championship — who awarded himself one of four sponsor’s exemptions in next week’s field.

The 60-year-old Halbritter passed the PGA of America player ability test last year, posting scores of 79-73 to earn status as an apprentice club professional. Then, he went through the conventional channels to secure an exemption. Via Syracuse.com:

“I had a conversation with the people in charge — myself — and I got lucky and got approved to play,” Halbritter deadpanned, drawing laughter from the gathered media members.

Halbritter went on to discuss the great lengths he’s taken to get down to a 2 handicap. But he understands that playing tournament golf is different than a Saturday game with your pals.

“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. That’s what people are expecting. That’s what you’re expecting of yourself. So, you have to deal with that pressure that you put on yourself.”

He also mentioned he shoots about a 78 or 80 at the Atunyote course, the site of the tournament. Let’s see, factor in tougher pins, thicker rough, back tees, pressure, etc., I’ll bet he doesn’t break 90, or hell, 100. His playing partners should be given a handicap for being forced to deal with the ensuing train wreck.

Then there’s that whole taking a spot away from a more deserving pro whose livelihood depends on these coveted exemptions argument. Like John Daly, for instance. Say what you will about JD, but he was declined a spot at Turning Stone. Here’s what he posted on Twitter:

For all the writers articles stating that “Daly” dropped out? I am excited to play any tournaments on the PGA tour as they welcome me & want my fans to know that I did not receive an exemption! But, in case I finish in the top 10 I don’t want to play somewhere that I am not welcome & see my children before school starts.

Here was the exact response:

Doesn’t look good for this year unfortunately……Let me know if you need anything else. Thanks

Ann M. Spencer
Tournament Director
Turning Stone Resort Championship

Another tweet:

Again, say what you will about Daly, but I’m sure there’s a long line of respectable pros who were also denied because Halbritter is fulfilling his dream. Well, I guess he did technically work hard to pay his way there and the tournament wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him.

Hey, these guys are rich!