Amateur Players Tour offers a taste of pro-style experience

Three-year-old tour has grown to more than 4,000 members in 41 chapters nationwide by creating top-tier tournament opportunities for players wanting to compete against similar skill levels

The great Bobby Jones once said, "There is golf — and there is tournament golf. And they are not at all alike." Anyone who has played in a tournament can confirm the truth in that statement. But the vast majority of golfers have never had a tournament experience and that’s where Matt Minder comes in.

Minder is a co-founder of the Amateur Players Tour, whose 4,000 nationwide members have the opportunity to play tournaments against players of their own skill level at courses, some of which they might not have had access.

APT was officially launched in late 2020 and began with 180 members in the St. Louis area. Minder started the business in 2018 and two years later, joined forces with his partner, Jody Barrett, with the idea of expanding the concept nationally.

Amateur Players Tour | 1st Tee
While Amateur Players Tour members have the opportunity to compete in local tournaments, they can also play in national events at venues like Streamsong, Pinehurst and Big Cedar Lodge.

Minder and Barrett met in 2016 when they ran and were captains of an event they called the Tour Players Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event in Tunica, Mississippi. Both Minder and Barrett have have extensive experience playing state and national level amateur golf and knew what it took to run high caliber tournaments.

"I was fortunate enough growing up to be able to play some really good amateur golf events," Minder says. "And it was always it was always fun to go to those big events — how you were treated, the quality of the venues and the atmosphere.

"The idea was to create those experiences for the everyday golfer, for the 10 or 12 handicap players who just absolutely love golf, to give them opportunities to play great golf courses, but also just experience what a top tier tournament atmosphere feels like."

Minder emphasizes players exchanging scorecards on the first tee, players being announced by the starter, snacks at the turn, coolers on the course and marshaling the pace of play as details experienced at the best tournaments.

"We want to make sure that it's a special time when guys come to our events," Minder says.

Players pay an annual fee of $125 to join the Amateur Players Tour and have access to dozen or more local tournaments each year with typical entry fees from $90-$130, depending on the location, and includes greens fees, cart fees, range balls and prize fund. Prizes are paid in Visa gift cards.

Members also have access to tournaments in any other location, including national tournaments at venues like Streamsong, Pinehurst, Myrtle Beach and Big Cedar Lodge. There also have been events at PGA Tour stops TPC San Antonio, site of the Valero Texas Open, and TPC Deere Run, site of the John Deere Classic. This past Labor Day, APT had an event at Chambers Bay near Seattle, site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Events typically have five flights based on handicap and APT has its own handicap index calculated solely on tournament scores.

APT has been the beneficiary of the golf boom of the last three years. “I think there's a market for what we are doing because golf has been so busy," Minder says. "It's hard to find tee times a lot on the weekend. So, this is a great way to come together.

"I think people are looking for camaraderie, and I think they're looking for, you know, competition in ways to explore that. But also ways to travel. We have a lot of people that join our tour and play locally, but they love to go on golf trips, and they don't really like to organize golf trips. Maybe six or seven guys will join our tour, and then they'll travel together to four or five of our majors.

"But what's been cool is we have a really neat national community. We have a Facebook group where people communicate. The friendships and the support and the camaraderie really surprised me a little bit. I thought it would be a little bit more segmented and players would just support each other on their respective tours. It’s a really cool culture across the country. Everybody supports everybody, as they get better. We post tournament winners and they get congratulations from all over the country.”

The co-founders projected APT would have 800-1,200 members after the first year but blew through that with 3,200 members. Now, with 4,000 members and 41 chapters nationwide, including one in Toronto, Minder says near-term expectations are of 10-12,000 members.

Amateur Players Tour is not the only one of its kind in existence. Older and more successful national tours were in the marketplace first and everyone is competing for players.

"Competition is a good thing, certainly for the consumer because it brings accountability," Minder says. "But it also pushes us to continually innovate and we're motivated to constantly learn to be better and to continue to make improvements. Our slogan is ‘By the Players, For the Players.’ We take that seriously.

“We have an executive committee that takes player feedback and we constantly evaluate what we do just like any growing company. We take that feedback to make the necessary changes to keep things moving in the right direction.”

If golf’s rising tide lifts all boats, Minder hopes it’s full steam ahead.