Do Amateurs Get Paid To Play At The US Open?

Every year, several amateurs compete at the US Open. But do they get paid if they make the cut?

Gordon Sargent hits a shot at the 2024 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship
2023 US Open low amateur Gordon Sargent
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are several amateurs in the field at the US Open every year, having qualified through a variety of ways.

But like other Majors and PGA Tour events, amateurs don’t receive payment and aren’t eligible for a share of the tournament prize money, even if they make the cut.

Any amateur with a handicap index of 0.4 or lower, as well as any professional, can enter US Open qualifying, with more than 10,000 golfers applying to compete for a spot at the Major this year. 

There will be 16 amateurs in the field at Pinehurst No.2, with some securing their spot through a range of exemptions for amateurs and others making it through qualifying.

The professionals who make the cut this week will compete for millions in prize money, with the US Open purse for 2024 announced at a record-setting level on Wednesday. Even the pros who miss the cut will receive $10,000, but none of the amateurs competing will be paid at all.

There are also no loopholes, meaning an amateur won’t be able to simply turn pro in the middle of the tournament if they were playing well to try and claim payment for their finish.

Amateurs must retain their status throughout the event, and can only officially turn pro once the tournament has drawn to a close.

An amateur is classed by the USGA as “someone who plays the game purely for fun, enjoyment, and competition.”

While amateurs don't get paid, they can receive exemptions to future events through their finish at the US Open, while there are many other benefits like exposure and sponsorship opportunities from playing the tournament as a non-professional.

Rule 3.1 in the USGA's Rules of Amateur Status, Playing for Prize Money, states: "An amateur golfer cannot play for money in a golf match, exhibition or other competition such as a tournament. The USGA enforces the rule to maintain a clear distinction between amateur golfers and professionals."

The USGA offers one exception to the rule: "Amateurs can keep prize money for winning a hole-in-one contest during the course of a tournament. But the amateur cannot accept money for winning the tournament overall."

PGA Tour pro Nick Dunlap was an unfortunate example of this scenario back in January when he was forced to turn down a life-changing check due to his amateur status when winning The American Express.

The Alabama sophomore held off Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas to land a remarkable victory at PGA West, but was unable to scoop the $1,512,000 prize - regardless of the fact that he turned pro in the days afterwards.

Ahead of his appearance at the 2024 US Open, Dunlap was asked whether amateurs should be paid. Although he disagreed, the 20-year-old offered a compromise of sorts to the current rule.

He said: "No, I honestly don’t think so. I think there should be maybe some kind of end of the week to help out with some of the expenses maybe. Weeks like this are expensive, especially at Augusta.

"It does kind of suck that you can’t make any money, so you’re kind of out of [pocket] whether it’s five, 10, 15, 20 grand, whatever it is. Some kind of help at the end of the week would be nice."

Nick Dunlap reacts after winning The American Express

Nick Dunlap

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But, on the same subject, USGA chairman Mike Whan revealed before the competition began at Pinehurst No.2 that the days of amateurs not receiving payment for making the cut could soon be consigned to history.

He said: "We’ve tried to evolve NIL and amateur status, as the game has, we as the USGA kind of created an NIL and amateur status angle before the NCAA did, so golf was kind of ahead of that time... We may be heading to that path sooner rather than later."

So what happens to the prize money that an amateur would have received? Well, the cash that was supposed to be paid out for that particular finish would be then redistributed throughout the pros that did make the cut.

Four amateur players at last year’s tournament at Los Angeles Country Club made the cut – Gordon Sargent, Maxwell Moldovan, Aldrich Potgieter and Ben Carr – and did not receive prize money.

Only five amateurs have ever won the US Open, with Bobby Jones winning four times: Francis Ouimet (1913), Jerome Travers (1915), Charles Evans Jr. (1916), Jones (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930) and Johnny Goodman (1933).

Neal Shipley hits a tee shot and watches its flight

Neal Shipley qualified for the US Open as low amateur in the 2024 Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 16 Amateurs Playing At The 2024 US Open

  • Parker Bell
  • Gunnar Broin
  • Jackson Buchanan
  • Luke Clanton
  • Satiago De la Fuente
  • Stewart Hagestad
  • Ben James
  • Bryan Kim
  • Ashton McCulloch
  • Omar Morales
  • Colin Prater
  • Gordon Sargent
  • Neal Shipley
  • Hiroshi Tai
  • Brendan Valdes
  • Wels Williams
Joel Kulasingham
News Writer

Joel Kulasingham is freelance writer for Golf Monthly. He has worked as a sports reporter and editor in New Zealand for more than five years, covering a wide range of sports including golf, rugby and football. He moved to London in 2023 and writes for several publications in the UK and abroad. He is a life-long sports nut and has been obsessed with golf since first swinging a club at the age of 13. These days he spends most of his time watching, reading and writing about sports, and playing mediocre golf at courses around London.

With contributions from