For golfers who want to compete for prize money like a PGA Tour golfer, but don’t have the skills, longtime local golf event promoter Bob Butte might have the answer.
Butte's new 13-stop golf tour—dubbed the Hoosier Tour—tees off May 5 and hits courses across the Indianapolis area. Butte calls it “the home-grown alternative to expensive national tours that don’t meet the needs of local golfers.”
The Tour consists of one-day, stroke-play tournaments conducted under U.S. Golf Association rules. “No gimmees, no illegal drops, no mulligans. Real golf,” Butte said.
And one other thing: No gift certificates and merchandise prizes. For the many golfers who don’t care about maintaining amateur status, Butte said, the prize purses will be awarded in cash.
“Most of the players I know have about as many golf club covers, tees and golf balls as they can use,” Butte said. “We want to give local golfers the opportunity to play for some real cash. I think that’s appealing to a lot of players.”
Entry fees for the tour will run $80 per event, including green fees. Tour stops include Brickyard Crossing in Speedway, Twin Bridges in Danville, Heartland Crossing in Camby, The Legends in Franklin, Timbergate in Edinburgh, Wood Wind in Westfield, Purgatory in Noblesville, Maple Creek in Indianapolis, and Golf Club of Indiana and Trophy Club, both in Lebanon. The tour will conclude Sept. 22.
Mike David, executive director of the Indiana Golf Office, the organizing and sanctioning body for golf tournaments in Indiana, warns that players accepting cash from the Hoosier Tour will no longer be eligible for United States Golf Association-sanctioned events. Such events only allow players with amateur status.
“The issue I have with it is they’re promoting paying cash, which is against USGA rules,” David said.
Butte, 62, said he’s simply catering to average Hoosier golfers who are tired of playing for “gift certificates and prizes they don’t need or want.”
Butte, who says he’s an avid golfer but a "weak nine handicap," explains he can empathize with the average golfer's plight. He said he only agreed to start the Hoosier Tour at the request of numerous local golfers.
“The USGA primarily runs tournaments for elite amateur golfers, low handicappers,” Butte said. “There are millions of 14 handicap golfers that would love to play some kind of formalized tournament golf, and there are very few avenues for it.
“Maintaining an amateur status is of absolutely no concern or consequence for most 14 handicap golfers,” he added. But Butte said if a player on his tour is concerned about their amateur status, he’ll be happy to award them a gift certificate or merchandise.
David countered that there are USGA-sanctioned events for higher handicap golfers including the four-stop Indiana Golf Association Pepsi Tournament Series, played this year at The Brickyard Crossing, Rock Hollow, Harbor Tree and Otter Creek.
The Hoosier Tour is for golfers of various levels, Butte added, with one thing in common.
“The Hoosier Tour is geared toward the avid golfer who loves competition, but realizes they will never be competing for USGA national championships,” he said.
Butte expects 30 to 50 players per tournament as the Hoosier Tour starts its first season.
About $20 of each Hoosier Tour entry fee will go toward a cash purse. Between $40 and $50 of the fee will go to pay for greens fees at host courses and operate the tournament. The remainder will be profit for Butte, he said.
Based on estimated purses for these early events, Butte anticipates winners could take home about $200. Prize purses could grow if the tour nails down sponsorship deals.
"Only a handful of guys are going to win more than their entry fee," Butte said."This is a way to give area golfers an opportunity to compete locally at a lower price than they might otherwise. And I think the cash prizes make it more interesting.”
Butte has been managing amateur and professional golf tours in Indiana and nationally for more than 16 years. Prior to its becoming the Golf Channel Am Tour, he was Great Lakes Regional Director for the American Amateur Golf Tour. Most recently he was director of tour operations for the National Professional Golf Tour.
Before getting into the golf business, Butte worked in the motorsports industry for 25 years, first as a driver and then as a team and track manager.