MANCHESTER — Want to be a professional golfer? Have a talk with Ricky Stimets.

The Osterville, Massachusetts golfer had just finished playing an excellent round, posting a score most players who step foot on a course would give years of their life to shoot. He was standing in front of the clubhouse at Augusta Country Club having started the Maine Open at 1-under, and asked to go through a scorecard most people would frame on their wall, Stimets spent much of his time shaking his head while bringing up one mistake after another.

“A lot of people would think ‘Yeah, I shot 69 today, that’s great,’ ” Stimets said. “But that’s not going to get you into the money, or any serious money. … This week it’s 86 pros and only 16 get paid. You really have to finish in the top seven to profit off of it.”

It has a glamorous ring to it, but pro golf isn’t all big checks and green jackets. For most pros, including the ones that will be vying for the Maine Open title today, “glamour” isn’t a word that comes up when they describe their trade. “Grind” does, often. So do “hard” and “tough.” The life of a professional golfer is a lot of travel, a lot of expenses and, except for a lucky few, not much money.

It’s not easy. And it’s not for everyone.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself, obviously. You’ve got to know that you’re good enough to play,” said Matthew Campbell of Clifton Park, New York, who sits tied for seventh at 3 under and who won the Open in 2015. “And when you do that, you grind. You keep practicing, because it’s so hard. There are so many good players now.”

“It’s fun when you’re playing well,” Stimets said. “And it’s real frustrating when you’re not, because you know your potential.”

Most of the pros in the Open follow the same schedules, traveling from one state open to another up and down the East coast, eager for chances to play, play well and make money. It’s why there are players at Augusta today from states like New York, New Jersey and Maryland, and others from states even further away in Florida and Texas. To keep the money coming in, the golfers have to play, and play, and play, all while supporting themselves without the types of sponsorships that make big-time professional golf far more manageable.

“It’s tough to be on the road for weeks at a time. That’s tough. Scrambling the money together to get the tournaments and pay for hotels and everything. That’s tough too,” said Aston, Pennsylvania’s Braden Shattuck, who shot a 1-over 71 and is tied for 36th. “Just making sure you go out and play well is the toughest part. Trying to play well consistently week in and week out.”

Some pros are able to dedicate themselves full-time to their play. Many others work other jobs — golf-related or otherwise — as either fallback plans or extra sources of income. All benefit from anything that can help keep costs down so that they can play as much as possible.

“I work at a golf course and it’s nice that they let me work there and I can play and practice there whenever I want,” Shattuck said. “That’s huge … to have a place you can play at that you’re not paying a bunch to be a member at.”

The players find ways to make it work because they all go into the game with the same goals.

“I think the guys who set out to play, the dream is always to play on tour,” said East Greenwich, Rhode Island’s Jonathan Pannone, tied for 17th at 1-under. “We’re all pretty competitive people, so you obviously saw something that you believed in yourself that you think you can compete out in the big leagues.”

Some players soon find out they aren’t cut out for it, however. There’s too much riding on each shot and each round, and the worry over dollars slipping away with each spot their name slides down on the leaderboard becomes too difficult to shake off.

“You see people who, they’re putting too much pressure on themselves,” Pannone said. “I have friends who don’t play anymore because of it. Golf became not fun for them because every shot had a dollar amount to it. … The game’s hard enough as it is to put that extra amount of pressure that this five-footer is for ‘X’ amount of money.”

Even for those who can handle the pressure and strain of tournament play, the idea of years spent at the same level can be a discouraging notion.

“I told myself that I’d play three years, and if I wasn’t on the (Web.com) or the PGA (Tours), I’d be done. We’re coming to the end of the road of that,” said Stimets, who turned pro in 2014. “I’ve got some good job offers outside of golf, so whatever happens, either I get to Q School this year (or not), I’m ready for either one.”

So why do they do it? Simply, they can’t imagine doing anything else. You have to be great to be a professional golfer. And you can’t become great at a sport like golf without becoming crazy about it.

“If I can continue playing professionally, it’s awesome. I’m a golfer. At the end of the day, when I get to tell people what I do, ‘I’m a golfer,’ ” Pannone said. “Being happy making a check playing golf is a great thing. A lot of people would give a lot up to be able to play golf like we can.”

Whether they’re playing Augusta Country Club or Augusta National, pro golfers get paid playing the sport they love. And for many, whether they reach the highest levels or not, their decision to go pro pays off down the road.

“Since I was a little kid, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Campbell said. “You meet a lot of good people, so you can get some good connections. … You get some good friendships out of it, so that’s pretty cool.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.