Remember the All Exempt PGA TOUR Priority Rankings?

This week I want to discuss what happens to a TOUR Player who doesn’t fit into any of these categories or is far, far down the list.  How does he get into an event?

Answer:  He asks for a Sponsor Exemption.

Officially called Category 11 this category allows each hosting organization to give eight exemptions to any player they wish.  There are some restrictions but they are not severe.  Two of the choices must be PGA TOUR Players and two of the choices must be from the TOUR list (what we used to call the Q School list).  The remaining four can be anyone with a 1 handicap or less.

Each year the HP Byron Nelson Championship receives between 40 and 50 requests for one of the eight sponsor exemptions.  It can be anyone from a young upstart to old veteran trying to restart his career.  We have even received them from amateurs.  Choosing eight spots out of 50 requests is never easy.  Here is what Mr. Nelson taught us long ago:

  • Select at least one young rising star that will play us in later years when he is famous
  • Select some veterans who went the extra mile for us in past years.
  • In choosing from the Q School list pick players that hold future promise.
  • Don’t forget the guys who need a helping hand.

In the past we have made some choices of players that worked out pretty well.

Consider some of our picks over the years …

  • Justin Leonard, US Amateur champion, selected in 1993 while still in college
  • Tiger Woods, US Junior Champion, selected in 1993, at age 17
  • Sergio Garcia, British Amateur champion, who had just turned professional, in 1999
  • Jordan Speith, US Junior Champion, selected in 2011, at age 16
  • Brandt Snedeker, US Public Links Champion, selected as soon as he turned professional
  • Trevor Immelman in 2005 – Runner up at the Nelson in ‘06 and Masters Champion in ‘08.
  • Steve Stricker selected in 2005 when he was unranked.  He is now # 12 in the World.

A common theme at our organization is helping a guy who, over the years, went out of his way for us.  He may have played in our Monday Pro-Am or gone to visit our school.  He may have volunteered to spend time with the sponsors.  He may be that super friendly Pro-Am participant who is fun to play with.  He may be that guy who shows up at the Gold Pro-Am Draw party just to mingle with the customers. Many PGA TOUR Players think that just playing the “The Nelson” is doing his part but there are guys who do much, much more.  When it comes time to hand out exemptions, which one do you think we remember?


Tim Gamso
Salesmanship Club of Dallas