As the old saying goes, there is no money to be made in mini-round golf.
Away from the lavish land of the PGA Tour lies a world where dozens of players congregate in hopes of turning triple-figure entry fees into four-figure wages. Many operate on a financial deficit to compete, while even the best barely break even as they seek to level up.
But in the midst of an unprecedented period brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new source of income has diversified between mini-tours and development circuits – not on the course, but in Las Vegas.
In a typical week, the action from the Outlaw and Cactus Arizona tours will not catch the attention of punters in Sin City. But with nearly all professional sports sidelined by the coronavirus, punters are eager to act on, well, something.
Enter the mini-round of golf, with a handful of circuits continuing to advance in light of the ongoing pandemic. Shortly after the PGA Tour suspended operations in mid-March, punters began to focus on the circuits still standing, filling a sudden void with odds on events and players with little to no recognition. name.
“You can tell that people are looking for something to bet on, and betting something that they normally wouldn’t do,” said Matthew Metcalf, director of sports betting for Circa Sports which currently operates two casinos in Las Vegas. “It’s been a good exercise in creating odds, every time you get odds on something like this that no one is really following.”
Las Vegas casinos have been closed for over a month, but Metcalf still has bets through Circa’s mobile app. While bettors can place bets on the app from anywhere in the United States, only residents of Nevada can currently access the casino’s remote finance option to add (or withdraw) money. of their accounts.
Even without the use of a walk-in window, Metcalf estimates he still gets about 10 percent of the action he would have from a typical PGA Tour event. These bets come at considerably reduced limits; While the Zurich Classic of the PGA Tour this week would have meant limits between $ 30,000 and $ 100,000 on wagers to win the event, action on the Cactus Tour and Outlaw Tour this week will be capped closer to the range from $ 3,000 to $ 5,000 before Metcalf “aggressively” adjusts his odds.
“You can usually log into our app anytime and bet to win at least $ 3,000 on anyone,” said Metcalf.
These numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to the money changing hands in a typical PGA Tour week, but they’re also mind-boggling amounts compared to the cash prizes handed out at the mini event. -tower. The Cactus Tour’s top prize ($ 560 entry price) is just $ 2,500, while last week’s Outlaw Tour winner took home $ 5,000.
The unexpected attention from the betting community has created a very real scenario where players can win more money through legal bets placed through a Vegas sportsbook – by them, a friend or a family member – than they can’t by winning the actual event.
“It was really interesting to see guys playing here for other people’s money, I guess,” said Outlaw Tour manager Toph Peterson. “I wouldn’t want the added pressure of putting $ 5,000 on myself in Vegas to have to win. So I don’t think a lot of guys are going to do this, but they could. “
The Florida-based Minor League Golf Tour suspended operations earlier this month when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order, but before that they were also drawing the attention of punters. Tour officials added a new rule on March 24 making it clear that even legalized gambling would not be tolerated.
“With the shutdown of most of the world’s major sports, some major sports betting companies have placed odds on players and taken bets on MLGT events,” the rule states. “MLGT members are not permitted to bet on themselves or any other player on the field of an MLGT event. Any player caught in the act will be exposed to suspension and the loss of his contributions.
Peterson’s group did not change their rulebook, but they “discouraged” betting among outlaw participants. Yet in a money-centric environment filled with side games and skin action, he admits, “we really can’t control it.” But even tour staff have noticed a dramatic increase in recent weeks in interested parties looking to glean an additional edge in a previously untapped betting market.
“Our Instagram has exploded,” Peterson said. “We get a lot of deputy ministers from guys asking who could be a member of the induction course and who will be the best. We don’t answer any of these questions, but it’s interesting.
While still posting weekly ratings on the Outlaw Tour, Metcalf noted that he currently has about three times the action on the All-Women’s Cactus Tour. He believes this is largely due to familiarity derived from smaller fields, with recent tournaments hovering around 20 participants while outlaw events typically include 60 or more players.
“There seems to be a bit more continuity among the top players in the Cactus,” said Metcalf. “The more people remember names and form opinions, the more likely they are to bet.”
This continuity has been seen especially at the top, as two women have dominated since the shutdown: Sarah Burnham won two out of three events before finishing second last week behind Sophia Popov, who also has a recent runner-up. The two started this week’s Dallas Cup Series event as betting favorites, and Popov quickly shot a 61 to build himself a five-stroke lead.
While second and third places at a Cactus event might struggle to collect $ 1,000, the money is flowing a few miles north of Las Vegas. Metcalf now has all kinds of betting offers, ranging from odds to win the event (with a four-digit cap) to one-on-one matchups between two specific players ($ 500 max).
There is even a “Yes / No” prop, whereby bettors can take the whole field against a single player by betting “No” on that player’s victory. The limits on these bets against individual players are set at $ 1,000 on the potential profits associated with the three biggest names – Burnham, Popov and former NCAA Champion Haley Moore.
It’s a surprising development for Cactus Tour director Mike Brown, who is in his 10e season on the circuit and has never seen so much attention on birdies and bogeys from its players.
“I heard they bet on us in Vegas and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Said Brown. “If someone told me I had to go bet on Sophia Popov, I wouldn’t know how. I’m just not a gamer. So I laughed when I heard that.
But there is no laughing these days from punters cashing in tickets on mini-spin players they may not have heard of a month ago. Metcalf admitted that the recent dominance of favorites like Burnham and Popov, as well as last week’s Outlaw victory by low-odds Alex Cejka, have dampened his long-term exposure. But that doesn’t mean he’s hesitant to write tickets that could eclipse the entire tournament purse, let alone the winner’s payout.
“I’ll take $ 100 on anyone, so if you have a longshot 300/1, it’s $ 30,000 there,” Metcalf said. “Last week I took $ 200 off an outlaw guy at 300/1 (which means a potential payout of $ 60,000). I don’t remember the name of the golfer. I knew his name for about 12 hours until he pulled an 80. ”
Eventually, the spotlight will return to the biggest circuits, with the PGA Tour still set to resume in June. The Arizona heat will likely put any Outlaw or Cactus Tour competition on hold by then, regardless of the current pandemic state.
But for now, the center stage is on smaller circuits that previously went unnoticed – and there is money to be made, as much (if not more) off the course as it is on it.
“A guy asked me, did you ever think for a moment that this little mini-tour would ever have national exposure,” Brown said. “I said, ‘Never’. “