LIV Golf has quietly scored one of its biggest wins by signing the No. 2 amateur in the world, Eugenio Chacarra. The former Spanish standout at Oklahoma State has joined the LIV Golf league and will presumably make his debut at the Portland event next weekend, just a month after losing in a playoff for the NCAA individual title to Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt.
"My position is that of a player who is not a member of the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour, and I have not earned money while I have been an amateur, so I can play in this league without problems," Chacarra told the Spanish newspaper, Marca. "This contract gives me peace of mind and ensures the future of my family. I had already achieved everything as an amateur, and now I will be able to gain experience as a professional."
Chacarra -- who was a senior with one season left on account of the COVID-19 pandemic -- has won three times so far in 2022 and trails only Keita Nakajima in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Chacarra was slated to return for that final super season before deciding to sign with LIV, according to Golf Channel.
It represents a dichotomy of decision-making in college stars, too. Chacarra has chosen LIV, but when presented with a similar choice, Texas superstar Pierceson Coody turned down the money, determined instead to grind it out on the Korn Ferry Tour as a path to the PGA Tour.
"I might be sitting on my couch with millions in my bank account watching my friends play on the PGA Tour, and that would have been devastating," Coody told Golf.com.
Chacarra is a bit of a coup for LIV Golf, which is clearly trying to collect as much talent as possible in its first year of existence. While most golf fans don't know his name, this represents a bigger blow to the PGA Tour than, say, Branden Grace or Kevin Na signing with LIV Golf. Why? LIV is banking on signing enough versions of Chacarra that it hits one Will Zalatoris. That is, if it signs 10 elite amateurs, perhaps one of them turns out to thrive in majors and is clearly a top-10 player in the world.
The problem for LIV, however, is that currently there isn't a great pathway for those players to become stars or superstars. Their currents are completely devoid of all context -- we have no idea what winning a LIV event in Portland even means -- and without Official World Golf Rankings points, LIV golfers will have a more difficult (albeit not impossible) route to qualifying for major championships.
This highlights the PGA Tour's biggest shortcoming -- or greatest quality, depending on how you look at it. Because of its 501(c)6 status, it is unable to create a structure in which guaranteed contracts are handed out. Even if it could, it might not matter, because LIV Golf has so much more money with which to play. But for some 22-year-olds, having guaranteed money versus fighting his way through the meritocracy of smaller tours to reach the PGA Tour will be an easy decision.
The other interesting part is what Chacarra hinted at in his quote above. There will likely be an easier (legal) path for golfers who have never competed on the PGA Tour or DP World Tour to play in those later on even if they decide to play LIV Golf right now. Even banning players who are trying to remain members of the PGA Tour might not hold up in court, and it's even more difficult to see one carrying weight against a player who was never a member at all.