Jordan Spieth, Jerry Smith, Sam Saunders and Russ Cochran are professional tournament golfers who are current competitors in the United States as of 2015. Other professional golfers whose names may be familiar include Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods.
To be considered a professional golfer, a player can make a living by teaching or coaching golf. The names that become famous, however, belong to those golfers known as tournament professionals. These are players who win tournaments with prizes over $750 and usually earn a living by competing in golf tournaments around the country and the world. Their income comes not only from tournament prizes, but from endorsements, as well. Tournament professionals are fewer in number but much higher in profile.
Golf arrived in the United States at the end of the 19th century. Early American golf club professionals were from Britain; it was not possible to make a living playing golf in the United States until well into the 20th century. Historically, golf was a very elite game, and the distinction between amateur and professional relied solely on social class. Because golf is now widely available with public courses accessible by a large portion of the population, the distinction between amateur and professional is nearly irrelevant.