How Club Pros and Tour Pros Qualify for the PGA Championship

Updated May 23, 2022
Ben Cook at PGA Championship
    Ben Cook at PGA Championship
    Darren Carroll/PGA of America
    Getty Image License

There’s no amateur hour when it comes to the PGA Championship. The PGA is golf’s only all-professional major, giving it the right to claim the strongest field in golf. But there are still hundreds of hopeful 9-to-5ers who battle it out for a coveted spot in the PGA Championship each year.

For PGA Professionals – the men and women who manage golf courses, give lessons, run the pro shops and orchestrate tournaments – the path to qualify for the PGA Championship is clear but difficult: qualify for the PGA Professional National Championship through the Section, then finish in the top 20 of the National Championship to earn a spot in the PGA Championship.

Section Qualifying

The PGA of America is made up of 41 different Sections. Each year, the Class A PGA Professionals from each Section compete in a qualifier for the right to play in the PGA Professional National Championship.

The number of National spots awarded to each Section varies depending on the size and participation of the Section. There are also exemptions for previous champions of the PGA Professional National Championship, which is also known as the PNC or the Club Pro Championship, and the PGA Professionals who finished in the top 20 the previous year.

When it’s all said and done, 312 PGA Professionals advance to the PGA Club Pro Championship.


PGA Professional National Championship

Those who advance through their Section earn the opportunity to compete in the PGA Professional National Championship, which has taken place in April each year since the PGA Championship move to May. The PNC is contested over four rounds and the site of the Championship rotates each year.

After two rounds, the 312-player field is cut to the top 90 players, plus ties. Another 20 players are cut after the third round, leaving only the top 70, plus ties, to compete in the final round. The top 20 players after the fourth round earn a spot in the PGA Championship. However, any ties for 20th are broken until exactly 20 players advance.

Historically speaking, players typically need to post a four-round total around even par to advance to the PGA Championship. In the 10 PGA Professional Championships contested between 2011 and 2021 (the 2020 edition was canceled due to COVID), only twice did 20 or more players finish under par, with 1-under taking 20th place in 2011 and 2016. In the other eight tournaments in that span, players ranging from 1-over all the way to 5-over have finished in the top 20 to advance to the PGA Championship.

In addition to competing for a spot in one of golf’s four major championships, the PGA Professionals who battle it out in the PNC also compete for a paycheck. In 2021, Omar Uresti cashed a $60,000 first-place check for winning the PNC, while 16 players added five figures to their bank accounts. Each of the top 70 players, plus ties, who advance to the final round get paid for the week, with the 70th place finisher earning just under $3,000.


PGA Championship

For a club pro, the opportunity to compete in a major championship is a big deal. But reaching the PGA Club Pro Championship, then beating nearly 300 other players to finish in the top 20 is no easy feat. The players who accomplish that have some serious game, and can do some damage against the world’s best golfers.

In four of the last five editions of the PGA Championship, at least one club pro has made the cut to earn the right to play the weekend, and left with a handsome payday.



Finish (To Par)



Ben Cook

T44 (+4)





Rob Labritz

T60 (+10)



Ben Kern

T42 (-3)



Omar Uresti

T73 (+12)


PGA Championship Exemptions for Tour Players

The club pros at your local course aren’t the only ones battling for a spot in the PGA Championship. The Tour members who you see on TV every weekend also need to earn their way in. Here are the 11 additional ways to qualify for the PGA Championship.




All past PGA Champions


Winners of the last 5 U.S. Opens


Winners of the last 5 Masters


Winners of the last 5 Open Championships


Winners of the last 3 Players Championships


Current Senior PGA Champion


Low 15 players plus ties from the previous PGA Championship


70 leaders in the official PGA Tour money standings from the week prior to the previous PGA Championship to two weeks prior to the current PGA Championship


Participants of the most recent Ryder Cup who rank in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings one week prior to the PGA Championship


Winner of any PGA Tour co-sponsored tournament since the previous PGA Championship


Special invitations from the PGA of America

The PGA Championship field is capped at 156 players. If fewer than 156 qualify through the above exemptions, alternates will be added via their standing in Exemption No. 8. Technically, an amateur could play in the PGA Championship by qualifying for the U.S. Open, Masters, or British Open, then winning, or winning a PGA Tour event on a sponsor exemption. That leaves an opportunity, albeit a slim one, to shush the “all professional field” drumbeat.