There's a fun thought experiment to do at the end of every PGA Tour season that goes something like this: how much money would a Tour pro make if he made par on every single hole?
The quick answer: a player would earn $410,084.33 on the PGA Tour for making nothing but pars, on average, based on many who have written about this idea.
Here's the longer answer which includes the history of how this idea came to be.
I remember first seeing the idea for a fictional golfer who made nothing but pars in an old copy of Golf Magazine. Brian Mull, a fine player and former caddie on the PGA Tour, wrote a version of this article for PGA.com in 2015. That article has been lost to internet history, as far as I can tell. Mull's genius was to take the idea and put a face on it. He named his fictional player Tom Par. Suddenly, an abstract idea had a real name. I like to think Mull's Tom Par is to golf as Schrodinger's cat is to quantum physics.
Longtime golf journalist T.J. Auclair picked up and ran with the idea (and created other members of the Par family) first at PGA.com and then with Mull at the Caddie Network, where they added the bonus feature of how much the fictional player's caddie made.
Here are Auclair and Mull's stories and how much their fictional pros made:
- Tom Par: $438,481. He made 13 cuts in 31 starts during the 2015-16 season
- Joe Par: $552,315. He made 24 cuts in 32 starts in the 2016-17 season
- Johnny Par and caddie Sven Even: $453,488. They made 13 of 34 cuts in 2017-18
- Johnny and Sven: Made $344,358 on 12 cuts in 34 starts in 2018-19
Golf Digest's Ryan Herrington went even deeper and figured out how much the fictional pro would make shooting 1-under every round (or better). His article is definitely worth reading. Herrington's par-shooter earned $347,876.
Now, let's get to my member of the Par family, who we'll call Ben Par. He was named after Ben Hogan and plays a little like the master himself, though he's no threat to go low on Sunday (or any day). He hits nearly every fairway but cannot make a putt, usually.
Ben Par likes to rest during the fall season. He didn't play any of the 2020 fall season events and didn't qualify for any of the majors played in that time.
He began the year with exempt status and played 20 events in the 2021 PGA Tour season, beginning with the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Ben Par made $323,991 in those 25 events. That's a nice living, but perhaps not quite as nice when you figure in travel expenses, taxes and other fees. Here's how his season broke down:
1. Sony Open: Ben Par shoots 70-70 and misses the cut by three shots. Kevin Na wins the tournament at -21.
2. The American Express: Ben shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by four shots. Si Woo Kim wins at -23.
3. Farmers Insurance Open: Ben shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by one lousy shot. Patrick Reed (-14) wins.
Stinging from three MCs in a row, Ben needs a week off so he skips the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He wouldn't have made the cut (-3).
4. AT&T Pebble Beach: Ben Par shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by one shot, again. Daniel Berger wins at -18.
5. Genesis Invitational: Ben wouldn't miss playing at Hogan's old stomping ground Riviera. He shoots 71-71 and makes the cut, his first of the year. He finishes T37 with Russell Henley, Tyler Duncan Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott and earns $40,455.
6. Puerto Rico Open: Ben shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by a single shot. So does Kiradech Aphibarnrat, among others. The two of them hang out in Puerto Rico before heading to the next event.
7. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Ben shoots 72-72 and makes the cut by two shots (!). He finishes T24 and makes $69,285. That bumps his earnings to $109,740. Bryson DeChambeau (-11) wins by a shot over Lee Westwood.
8. The Players Championship: Ben shoots 72-72 again and makes the cut on the number. He finishes T52 and makes $34,950. He's earned $144,690 this season. Justin Thomas (-14) wins.
9. The Honda Classic: Ben is gassed after playing so many events in a row, but is rolling and wants to keep playing. He shoots 70-70 and makes another cut! He finishes T32 and makes $39,900 to bring his total earnings to $184,590. Matt Jones finishes -12 to win.
Ben does not qualify for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. He skips the Corales Puntacana opposite-field event to spend some of his hard-earned winnings. He takes off the Texas Open in early April and does not qualify for the Masters.
10. RBC Heritage: Ben returns to tour at Hilton Head to shoot 71-71 and miss the cut by two shots. Stewart Cink (-19) wins.
He skips the Zurich Championship team event. He had Kiradech Aphibarnrat lined up as a partner — they hit it off in Puerto Rico — but it didn't work out for either guy.
11. Valspar Championship: Ben shoots 71-71 and misses the cut by a shot. Sam Burns wins at -17.
12. Wells Fargo: Rory McIlroy wins at -10 but he's not the only one in the money. Ben Par shoots 71-71 and makes the cut by two shots. He finishes T26 and earns $53,276. His total money earned banked so far: $237,776.
13. AT&T Byron Nelson: Ben Par shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by six shots. It's his worst missed cut of the season. K.H. Lee wins at -25.
14. Charles Schwab Challenge: Ben doesn't qualify for the PGA Championship so his next tournament is at Colonial, another place where he hopes to channel Hogan and make a cut. He shoots 70-70 to make it by one shot. He finishes T48 and wins $18,325. Ben's total so far is $256,101. Jason Kokrak wins at -14.
15. The Memorial Tournament: Ben gets a sponsor's exemption into this tournament, sponsored by WorkDay. What's better for the brand than the guy who shows up every day, punches the clock, and makes nothing but pars? He shoots 72-72 and makes the cut by two shots. He finishes T24 and pockets $67,890. His total so far: $323,991.
He skips the Palmetto Championship, figuring he can't win there. Ben had tried to qualify for the U.S. Open but didn't make it out of the qualifier in Richland, Washington. He skips the Travelers Championship, typically a birdie fest.
16. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Ben returns to the Tour, shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by three. Cam Davis wins at -18.
17. John Deere Classic: Ben shoots 71-71 and misses the cut by four. Lucas Glover wins at -19.
18. Barbasol Championship: Ben doesn’t qualify for the Open Championship at Royal St. George. So he's in the field at Keene Trace Golf Club, in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He shoots 72-72 and misses the cut by four. Seamus Power wins at -21.
19. 3M Open: Ben shoots 71-71 and misses the cut, again, by two shots. Cameron Champ (-15) is the winner.
Our Ben Par does not play in the Olympics. He skips the Barracuda Championship and its Stableford scoring system because making pars isn't going to fly there. He doesn’t qualify for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
20. Wyndham Championship: Ben heads to Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC, for his final event of the season. He shoots 70-70 and misses the cut by three. He's not around on the weekend to see Kevin Kisner (-15) win.
That's seven cuts made in 20 events for Ben Par. He finishes the regular season with $323,991 in earnings. That's 183rd on the money list, between Luke Donald at $333,336 and Kevin Tway's $323,098.
Ben Par ends another season outside the top 120 on the money list and misses the Fed Ex Cup playoffs. He'll spend the offseason working on his game, as always, and be back grinding in 2022.