When fans tune in to watch a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour or DP World Tour, they'll occasionally see a lower-case (or even upper-case) a in parentheses next to a player's name on the leaderboard or a tournament scoreboard.
That a in parentheses tells golf fans some important information about a golfer.
What does the letter a in parentheses mean on a golf leaderboard?
When watching a professional golf tournament, it's typically fair to assume most every player in the field is a professional player who makes a career of competing in golf tournaments and will collect money at the end of the week should they qualify to earn any.
However, in plenty of professional golf tournaments, there are players who are invited or who qualify that are not professionals. In fact, they won't even get paid for their tournament finish, even if they qualify to earn money. These players are amateurs.
On a golf leaderboard, then, the a in parentheses, (a), indicates a player is an amateur golfer.
This indication is there for a few reasons. Golf has long had a tradition of inviting up-and-coming amateur players to compete. Showing these amateurs on the leaderboard with their current status may prove to impress fans who would expect worse performance from most amateurs compared to professionals who make a living playing the game.
The indication is also there to show to the players competing and fans watching that this particular player will not receive any money for their finish this week -- even if they win. In golf, amateurs cannot claim prize money under the Rules of Golf unless they declare themselves professionals before the tournament starts. In the event they remain amateurs, prize money is distributed to the pros as though the amateurs competing were never in the competition.
It's a bit of a strange system, and the distinction between amateurs and professionals is not as stark as it once was. However, in the traditions of the game, the amateur-professional distinction is an important one to make clear to observers.