Megha Ganne is looking to make history on Sunday at the 2021 US Women's Open, seeking to become just the second amateur in tournament history to become the champion.
The New Jersey teen, who has committed to play college golf at Stanford, is in the final grouping with an outside chance to win and become the youngest winner is US Women's Open history. Regardless of how her Sunday goes, the 17-year-old is in great shape to score a great finish. Will she earn prize money from the 2021 US Women's Open prize pool if she wins?
The short answer is no. Megha Ganne is competing in this golf tournament as an amateur, meaning she, like any other amateur competing in a professional golf tournament, is ineligible to earn prize money in a pro golf event. Players on the LPGA Tour are typically paid only if they make the cut, but only professional golfers earn money.
Wherever Ganne finishes in the tournament, the prize money she would otherwise win is paid out to professionals in the field. Ganne doesn't count toward the final payout, meaning she is skipped and not considered to be part of the payout. Were GAnne to finish, say, third in the tournament, she would not be paid and the professional player finishing in fourth place will earn third-place money. The rest of the payout would be affected accordingly.
Even if Ganne wins, she cannot take home the $1 million first-place prize. It will go to the second-place player or be part of a split among players tied for second place.
There is a circumstance where an amateur player can earn prize money. An amateur can earn or receive a spot into a professional tournament not predicated on them competing as an amateur player, and they can then declare themselves a professional golfer before the tournament begins. At that point, the amateur-turned-professional is then eligible to earn prize money. The newly minted professional golfer cannot then revert to amateur status after competing in the tournament.
Proposed changes to the rules governing amateur status in golf, however, might eventually render this moot, allowing amateurs to turn pro and accept prize money at the end of a tournament.
Most amateur golfers who have no intention of pursuing a professional golf career will remain amateurs because it affects their eligibility for other competitions at the club and regional level. Many of these events explicitly exclude professional golfers, meaning amateurs are wise to stay as such unless they're planning on a career change.