Monday, October 24, 2011

U.S. Mid-Am Medalist Forfeits Amateur Status

NOTE: This is exclusive breaking news from Texas Links Magazines.

Mike McCaffrey had one of the most successful summers in recent Texas amateur golf history. Most of it has been stricken from the record books.
League City's Mike McCaffrey forfeited his
amateur status by accepting $8,500 in an
Aug. 21 skins game at Beeville Country Club.
The United States Golf Association on Oct. 20 ruled that McCaffrey “professionalized his playing status” on Aug. 21 by accepting $8,500 in prize money from a skins game at Beeville Country Club. Accepting prize money is a violation of Rule 3 of the USGA’s Rules of Amateur Status.

Rule 3-2 under the Rules of Golf’s Amateur Status states “an amateur golfer must not accept a prize (other than a symbolic prize) or prize voucher of retail value in excess of $750 or the equivalent, or such a lesser figure as may be decided by the USGA.

USGA spokesman Joe Goode told Texas Links that McCaffrey, a 41-year-old from League City, clearly violated Rule 3.

“The USGA ruling follows a lengthy investigation,” Goode said. “As soon as he accepted the prize money, he professionalized his status.”

With the ruling, McCaffrey retroactively forfeited his amateur status on Aug. 21, which means his win at the Texas Golf Association’s State Mid-Amateur Championship at Carlton Woods has been surrendered. McCaffrey was also made ineligible for last weekend’s Texas Shootout.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation that certainly brought to light some things for other players to be aware of, things that might damage their amateur status,” TGA president Rob Addington said. “The USGA is the governing body in situations like this, and we will abide by their ruling. We have no choice but to make him ineligible for the Mid-Am, which means that victory is forfeited.”

McCaffrey also forfeits his impressive run at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in September.

The USGA has asked McCaffrey to return the medal he received for his nation’s-best low score in sectional qualifying, an 8-under 64 at Pine Forest Country Club. The USGA also asked McCaffrey to return the medal he received for the stroke play portion of the U.S. Mid-Am. McCaffrey posted 68-68 at the national championship for amateur golfers aged 25 and older and earned medalist honors. He was the top seed in the match play bracket, in which he advanced to the quarterfinals.

All of that has been forfeited.

McCaffrey’s October win at the Harvey Penick Invitational, a prominent amateur event at Austin Country Club, likely will be vacated as well. Tournament chairman Rod Harris was caught off guard by the news Sunday night.

“We’re going to do the right thing here,” Harris said. “We’re going to abide by the USGA ruling.”

Goode said the USGA took no pleasure in its ruling.

“As the national governing body of golf in the United States, it’s our responsibility to write and enforce the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status,” Goode said. “Failure to act in this case would have been to abdicate one of our core responsibilities.”

In an investigation conducted by the USGA and TGA, the USGA found hard evidence that McCaffery accepted a check for $8,500 in a Beeville skins game on Aug. 21.

McCaffrey said he is appealing the decision.

“It was a skins game,” McCaffrey said. “When I learned it was excessive per the USGA standards, I gave the money back.”

McCaffrey, who regained his amateur status in February, said he returned the money to the club in Beeville a few days after the event. Repeated calls to the Beeville Country Club were not returned.

“After-the-fact repayment of prize money isn’t a valid defense of a violation of the rules of amateur status,” Goode said. “This case serves as a cautionary tale of conduct that undermines the spirit and values of the game that all competitors should avoid.”

One of the USGA’s primary functions is to protect the integrity and fairness of the amateur game. Goode said McCaffrey’s actions illustrated a “clear violation” of the rules.

McCaffrey said he knows of scores of golfers who have broken Rule 3 of the USGA’s Amateur Status.

“I could name 300 golfers who have played in Calcuttas and accepted money,” McCaffrey said. “A skins game is a skins game. I guess they have certain cheeks they can turn at certain times. I’ve turned everything over to my attorney and I’m appealing it. I think I’ll come out ahead in the end. I’ll get my satisfaction in the end.”

A former two-time All-American at North Texas, McCaffrey was a longtime mini-tour player before regaining his amateur status. In the spring of 2010, he began suffering from a loss of sensation in his fingers and toes. He said he visited several doctors for extensive testing and was diagnosed by Dr. Milvia Pleitez with a neuromuscular disease with a concern for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Repeated calls to Dr. Pleitez, the head of the Neuromuscular Biopsy Laboratory at Methodist Neurological Institute, went unreturned.

Upon receiving the new health information in McCaffrey’s appeal to regain his amateur status near the end of 2010, the USGA reinstated McCaffrey as an amateur in February 2011. Two months later, McCaffrey won the 36-hole TGA South Region Mid-Am at Riverbend Country Club by two shots with 11-under 205.

McCaffrey also finished third at Austin Country Club for the Texas Amateur, eighth at the Champions Cup and third at the State Four Ball in Kerrville. Those accomplishments stand, but all of McCaffrey’s amateur results after Aug. 21 will be vacated. 

More controversy surrounded McCaffrey this summer. Rumors swirled about the veracity of his health issues and neuromuscular disease diagnosis. On the eve of McCaffrey’s quarterfinal match against eventual champion Randal Lewis at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, the USGA confronted McCaffrey about the claims. There was a closed-door meeting at Shadow Hawk with McCaffrey and at least two USGA officials, including U.S. Mid-Am Director Bill McCarthy.

McCaffrey said the tone of the meeting was accusatory and his doctors’ diagnoses were called into question. McCaffrey added that his performance in the quarterfinals—he lost 3 and 1 to Lewis—was affected by the previous night’s meeting with the USGA.

The USGA did not comment on whether McCaffrey’s health concerns played a role in his forfeiture of amateur status.

“Our ruling was based on the clear facts we learned in our investigation about Mr. McCaffrey professionalizing his amateur status,” Goode said.


  1. I'll guarantee you dollar to doughnuts he knew better. His statement "I guess they have certain cheeks they can turn at certain times" is BS...he knew better, just got caught.

  2. this point he should go back and get the$8,500... and be SURE to list it as income to the IRS!

  3. i feel for Chris Davis who was the first alternate at the usga mid am from McCaffrey's site. they knew about the issue and txga/usga allowed him to play....i for one work 5 days a week and it's hard enough playing against similar ams, let alone all the pro's who have been working on their game for 10,20,30 yrs....the re instated pro is an embarrassment to am golf....a longer time span needs to be introduced to give the "real am" a chance....we have all read "The Match"....tons of these guys are bank rolled..

  4. Agreed!! The USGA is supposed to be a champion of Amateur golf and these people are not amateurs...they are washed up professionals. In the match play field of 64 at the US MID AM, 37 of the 64 were reinstated amateurs. There are still plenty of us who try to make a living at our jobs and balance our competitive golf juices.

  5. You guys have NO clue. If you are a golfer of any kind and have participated in a tournament with a Calcutta, Skins Game or Excessive amounts of money...You too are in violation. The "TRUE" amateurs today are only Wanna BE's anyway. Too much money on the Tours to play for and why Amateur Golf has gone to the bottom. Why do you think Nathan Smith has been able to do what he has done, all the good players are Professional! Catch a clue will ya!

  6. both/all points are valid, bottom line usga has to acknowledge most top am golfer are "pro ams"
    the real am can't compete until his joins the seniors and retires!

  7. Let me say that Mike McCaffrey works 40+ hours a week and has done so for the past two years. He has had little time to practice or play (there goes the "full time" excuse). He obviously is not playing for the money and got caught up in a USGA witch hunt. Perhaps they were looking for a scapegoat and found one.Great for them.
    Now, what about the other amateurs that play in Calcuttas,parimutuels,and gamble on the weekends. Thousands of dollars change hands and no one seems to notice. How many "true" amateurs do you think there are? Mike is playing well and he is pulled under the microscope. Had he played poorly do you think that this would have happened?... of course not.
    Further, I know personally that Mike has a neurological issue that has forced him to go to many doctors ending up with Dr. Milvia Pleitez, MD who is one of the top nuero docs in the country (research her bio). apparently, an official from the USGA had the audacity to even question her qualifications (does this start to smell like a witch hunt?).
    Mike, was questioned several months ago about the Beeville incident and was cleared by the USGA (there are emails to that affect). In the middle of the US Am he was called in the day before his match with Lewis and was essentially told that his amateur status was, once again, in question over the medical issues. How convenient, How well would you play under those circumstances? I was told by one USGA official that he didn't see how anyone could beat Mike the way he was playing. Guess who Mike's next opponent would have been? Yes, you guessed it Nathan Smith.Who was cheering for him to get his forth title? Good press, huh?
    Due to Mike's neurological condition he may not be able to play competitive golf much longer. Let's deprive him of this because someone of lesser talent felt (jealousy) compelled to make this an issue. The USGA again and again pushed the issue, resolved it, and pushed again. This went on for several months until someone heard what they wanted and pulled his amateur status.
    Mike is appealing this decision as the money was returned as soon as this came into question.He never accepted the prize money for this tournament but, assumed that as the "skins game" portion was within the rules.
    My hope is that he is able to be absolved of this and regain his status.My other hope is that the person(s) that made these accusations play in a calcutta or similar event and have their name on the board with the winnings posted next to it.That will make a fine picture which, rest assured, we will make sure that the USGA gets a copy and we will not rest until you too lose your amateur status. Good luck!

    1. Well you don't seem to know what you are talking about. Dr.Pleitez, he had other test to verify his neurological problem and the results were negative. Mike told numerous people at the State 2-man last year that his follow up test were all negative for what was originally thought to be Lou G. Disease. Mike lied to the USGA when the Dr. stated possible Lou Garrig disease. As far as how much he plays, ask any one that knows him, he plays more golf than he ever did when he was on the mini tours. Mike knew exactly what he was doing when he went to Beeville, he took a team of amateurs with him to play as his team in the pro am. He also continues to go play as a pro in a big money pro am in Boston every year. That is just a tip of the iceberg of his farce. And I believe amateur golf is better off without players like Mike in it.

    2. I sure hope you, Anonymous One, are still up and blogging! You seem to know an awful lot about Mike and his whereabouts and everything else supposedly surrounding Mike so why don't you just show your self and say who you are and we will see just how "solid" and upstanding individual YOU are? If you would like to see the portfolio from ALL of the Dr's who treated Mike, they will be at arm's length for you and even the Diagnosis from Dr. Pleitez herself, all for you to review. I will even get his letter from the USGA if that suits ya?

      I am guessing you are talking out of your ass since you don't truly have the facts, but if you would like to meet face to face with Mike, that can easily be arranged. The problem with society(and people such as yourself) today is that most people talk smack behind a computer screen and lie about who they are! Since I know you are a golfer and pretty sure I know who you are, I will say your competing in Beaumont, Golfcrest, Lake Charles Tournaments is also against the Rules of Amateur Status! If you would like to further discuss your own improprieties, I would be happy to do so at your leisure, otherwise I'd keep my mouth shut if I were you.

      And furthermore, I am also guessing you are an avid golfer that can't play a lick anymore or supposedly use to be good, or at least in your own mind....that is jealous of Mike's success on and off the golf course and just want to bad mouth a guy for his prowess and success from the god given talent he was given. Oh, I bet I can also set up a game against him, each of you put up a couple of bucks, play a few rounds of golf and see how you match up against an Old Pro and Amateur?

      The lies that you, yourself, tell in the above blog are border line slander, since you speak NOTHING of the truth and obviously know NONE of the facts you say you know and speak of!

      Go ahead and text me when you would like to air out your dirty laundry!

  8. ^ I can tell you that im sure he is playing for money. that is what most golfers do now a days. i doubt that if he wanted to go pro for so long and he finally gained his amature status that that would stop him from playing for money. bottom line is he got caught end of story. i completely agree with you mike kelly

  9. Well done to Mark Button and Texas Links Magazine for writing this story. This is a big deal for golf and I'm surprised its not getting any other press. In a sport where players have lost major championships due to calling a penalty on themselves, there is no room for someone who has such obvious disregard for the rules and institutions that make the game great. Mike has known he was wrong since the day he played in the tournament in Beeville. Having been both a pro and an amateur several times he certainly knows the rules regarding amateur status. He will say that he gave the money back, but he knows that taking the money in the first place was the mistake, and that he only gave it back when he realized he had been caught.

    I agree with the other comments that there are many other top "amateurs" who bend or break the amateur status rules. That is hardly a defense for what McCaffrey did. Hopefully this incident will lead the USGA to be even more diligent when they grant amateur status to players who have played as pros. The period between being a pro and getting amateur status back should be much longer, and they should not allow the revolving door between pro and amateur that put McCaffrey in this spot.

    Mike says he will get his satisfaction in the end. I hope all those guys who have been left out of tournaments or missed the excitement of finishing first because of McCaffrey are feeling a little satisfaction right now.

  10. Funny how you will throw stones from behind an anonymous email and show such "high" regard as an amateur but would be interesting to see how many of you that have posted anonymous that have broken the rules of golf! Your assumptions are classic and facts are off a bit...

    The person posting 10/27......I welcome any specific questions you may have and is interesting that you speak with so much knowledge about Beeville and my disregard for the rules and the game of golf...I welcome this convo in length and even in person or on the phone someone with true integrity would have left their name...guess that is self explanatory.

  11. am surprised how many people think that a reinstated amateur has such a leg up on the competition. There is a “dumb your game down” period that all reinstated amateurs go through, just like Mike did. If you are a trust fund baby sure you get to play a ton of golf without working, but are far as I know from my friends that is not the case with Mike. He has a full time job and plays when he can…yes he plays better than you mad posters, but that is due to talent. If the USGA has rules for allowing professionals to reinstate after a cooling off period why are you guys so mad that those competitors play. As several point out there are virtually no good playing amateurs that do not in some way violate the absolute letter of the law with regards to amateur status. In hindsight I know I did once I was reinstated from Calcutta, member guests and BBQ circuit events. Somebody mentioned they could name 300 amateurs who have violated the rules and I am pretty sure I could add to that list.

    Here is the bottom line….the USGA sucks. They are awful at running tournaments/setting up courses/making decisions/playing golf. Anyone who has an opinion different than that is simply wrong and doesn’t know much about tournament golf.

    I wish I could post my name but I don't feel like having the USGA set out on a witch hunt for me.

  12. It's real simple, the game of golf is the most stringent sport on amateurs of any I know of. The rules should be simplified, if you enter a pro tournament or give a lesson and accept money, or advertise your golf skill for compensation your a pro.

    Like most of these accurate comments we ALL have played in these skins games, and we all have played in lucrative Calcutta's to single out one guy is preposterous.If anyone is stupid enough to play Mike for money in a skins game then so be it....I'd happily lay down a grand to tee it up against him. The $750 cap is a joke, especially since an amateur can now win a car in a "Hole in One" contest.
    The problem here is amateur golf hasn't kept up with the rest of the world, the pro game gets all the attention and us amateurs are left with old out dated rules.

    the word amateur holds no special meaning like it once did way back in the day. Amateur golf gets very little mention in the media, and no one really cares anymore. With college football players about to make money to play college ball, why doesn't the NCAA allow the golfers to pick up a few grand an event to pay for their summer amateur expenses. It's all ridiculous, and for the USGA to waste their time hunting someone down in re: to a skins game is laughable. It means these guys have too much money in their budget to waste on things of little importance. There are a MILLION guys over the past 50+ years that have played for and won over the maximum allowable amount. Talking to Mike the eve before the quarterfinal match in the USGA Mid Am is a joke, and I disgusted to hear this.
    I have played in 15 USGA Mid Ams so I know what I am talking about, those of you whining about Mike are either jealous, or just misinformed. Now all of you get back to your 40 hour a week jobs and quite wasting your time venting because you can't beat this guy......

    1. Hey...if you ever wanna tee it up with Mike, not for a GRAND though, I am sure he would appreciate it! I can most certainly set that game up too and I bet he would like sharing his story.
      Thanks Bud...

  13. reinstated pro is an embarrassment to amateur golf? no, what's embarrassing are these d-1 golfers and elite "amateurs" who get ferried around the country, living life like a pro golfer already...getting the facilities, the access, the schedule to practice and play all day long and not have to work...

    that's not amateur...that's just a pro that can't shave yet.

  14. Absolutely no remorse for this guy. he knew what he was doing. He's played at a high level for quite some time. he got caught and he doesn't want to deal with the consequences. If he can name 300 people who have done it --- here's a pencil start naming. IMO, he's crying foul because he's embarrassed. it was, pardon the expression, an amateur mistake on his part. saying "i didn't know a skins game would forfeit my status" is just stupid. Come on, if you're playing a game for money the first thought in your head should be "will this ruin my amateur status?" DUH.

    1. Do YOU know how Amateurism is defined? Do you know what you can do and NOT do as an Amateur golfer? Obviously not! Do you know that the USGA has no bones about an skins game as long as all the money comes from those participating?! Did you also know that the amount WON has to be nominal?!

      Well then, you see, many of us have opinions and levels of income and status so very different from others so your definition of nominal and mine can and will be extremely different! Don't you think?

      I am sure you being such a perfect professional in your profession, you have never made a mistake or bad judgment or investment? Pretty easy to do huh?!

  15. After playing professionally as recently as 2009, Mr. McCaffery apparently had to work some to get reinstated. He eventually won back his amateur status based in part on some health issues. It is hard to understand how he could accept a check for $8,500 without any consideration of how that would affect his amateur standing. As a former professional he, perhaps more so than most of us, should understand that once you are in breach of the rules, you can’t wipe away the error with a claim that you didn’t know or understand: ground your club in the bunker – 2 strokes, accept a bucket of money, lose your amateur status.

  16. I don't know anything about the character of Mike McCaffrey, but when you're playing really well in reputable amateur golf tournaments, you're going to get caught if you accept an $8,500 check in a Skins game. If Mr. McCaffrey didn't know the rule, he certainly should have.

    That said, it's a big ouch - much smaller scale than Joe Paterno, but the same kind of regrettable disappointment.

    I hope Mr. McCaffrey has been misdiagnosed and that his health remains good for many years to come. He's clearly a real talent and no matter what the discussion here, top amateur golfers are friggin' amazing!

  17. Mike is not an amateur. He gave that up the day he joined a professional tour. If I had my way, no former professional for any reason would ever be reinstated. Amateur golf should be for amateurs- period!

  18. What about playing partners of Mike's in four ball events and such? If they knew of Mike accepting money and violating USGA rules, do they have any liablity?

    1. Playing Partners??? Really? There are so many of you that do NOT understand what it is you are even talking about. Playing in a Calcutta golf tournament and NOT participating in the Calcutta is even against the USGA rules of Amateur Status. Others are benefitting from your name and participation, making it against the rules. Everyone Involved and in EVERY flight up to the 20 handicappers. Once an outsider participates in a skins game, or a Calcutta or donates to a game, it has become something the USGA would NOT want to hear about.

      There are MANY of these games and many of these tournaments and all over the United States....just ask Trevor Hyde or Eddie Sanchez or Anthony Rodriguez or Aaron Hickman or Zach Atkinson or Colby Harwell or Jack Tyson or Jess Bonneau or Randy Lance or Scott Loving or Russell Helson or David Lee or Pat Youngs or Trevor Sauntry or Nick Christea or Scott Faucett or Gene Williams or Chris Forbes or ANY other competitive golfer you know! They have ALL done it and still are doing it, so you do the math and tell me if there would be an Amateur Golfer in the USA if they were to crack down?????

      1-800-Catch A Clue

  19. This is a joke. A year ago I watched a Kansas Golf Association employee accept a $3000 tv. He got turned in and the USGA told him if he returned it he wouldn't be in violation. He returned it and nothing happened to him. Obviously a few jealous individuals turned Mike in. How unprofessional of the USGA to question a mans health especially during the tournament. Every year I watch amateurs accept thousands of dollars and nothing happens. What a shame.

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