Commercial appearance costs Pieri amateur status

Scott Pieri is a well-known name in Fort Wayne, Ind., golf circles. The 45-year-old is a five-time Fort Wayne City champion, finished runner-up at the Indiana State Amateur in 2012 and is a former area club professional. Recently, Pieri made a 10-second appearance in a commercial for Golf Etc., a local club-fitting store owned by a friend, to deliver a brief testimonial, which is where his golf career took an unexpected turn.

Pieri was not compensated for the brief slot, and thought that was enough to protect his amateur status. As it turns out, he misinterpreted the rule and found out from the U.S. Golf Association on June 18 that it would cost him his status. Pieri, disappointed but respectful of the USGA’s ruling, says he won’t appeal.

“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to know this,” Pieri said. “I just misinterpreted it.”

Pieri submitted information about appearing in the testimonial to the Indiana Golf Association when questions were raised about its legality as it applied to his amateur status. The IGA submitted Pieri’s case to the USGA.

“If I did something wrong, I’d like to know,” Pieri said of coming forward about his testimonial. “If not, I’d like this to go away.”

By the first round of the Indiana State Amateur on June 17, Pieri had heard nothing from the IGA or the USGA, and so teed it up at South Bend Country Club, shooting a 1-over 72 that left him five shots off the lead. The morning of his second round, he spent 20 minutes on the phone with Bernie Loehr, the USGA’s director of amateur status. Pieri was found to be in violation of the USGA’s rules of amateurism, specifically Rule 6-2 which addresses promotion, advertising and sales. Even though Pieri did not receive compensation for the testimonial, he said the USGA ruled that it could have elevated his status enough to help him secure entries into additional tournaments, even though Pieri argues that’s not possible.

“I play in every big tournament there is around here,” Pieri said. “I don’t need any more invitations.”

Pieri said he has accepted the USGA’s ruling, and though it was unclear in the Rules of Golf, he said the USGA pointed to a nearly identical situation in the organization’s decisions book.

The USGA does not comment of rulings regarding amateurism.

Pieri now faces a difficult decision: Seek reinstatement of his amateur status for the second time or remain a professional. He said Champions Tour Q-School has been in his distant sights, but that leaves him in the gray area of being a non-amateur – essentially, a talented player without a place to play. The Rules of Golf state that a player is not normally eligible to reinstated more than twice.

For the record, Pieri’s previous amateur reinstatement took a little longer than two years, and he got his amateur status back in 2006. He advanced to the final four in the Western Amateur that summer, eventually losing to Pablo Martin. Pieri’s victories that week included one over 2006 NCAA champion Jonathan Moore.

As a professional, Pieri Monday qualified for three PGA Tour events in 1997: the Western Open, Buick Open and Greater Milwaukee Open. He won the 2003 Indiana PGA Professional Championship before seeking amateur reinstatement.

“I’ve been down this road before,” Pieri said of reinstatement. “I wasn’t planning to go down it again. I’m going to make this as much positive as I can.”

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