Last week, the PGA Tour announced that two Korn Ferry Tour players, Jake Staiano and Vince India, were suspended for gambling and violating the Integrity Program.
On Monday, the podcast Any Given Monday posted an interview with Staiano, who spoke openly about the details of his suspension.
Staiano made sure to own up to his decisions and accepted the consequences, but these details are intriguing, to say the least.
For starters, the four bets he placed were for a total of $116.20, and those wagers happened more than two years ago. That’s obviously a far cry from someone looking to make real money on betting sports.
“I placed the $25 bet on Bryson early in the year in 2021. I then placed the three other bets on the Bryson-Brooks match…in November of 2021,” Staiano said.
Then he dropped an interesting remark that leads to some very curious thoughts.
“I was told they hired a third party investigator to do background checks on everybody affiliated with the PGA Tour. Anybody betting on golf was going to get flagged.”
That’s truly wild if it is accurate. Betting in golf is unbelievably commonplace, particularly when out on the course between competitors. How much of a difference is there between that and what Staiano did?
While it has been known that players shouldn’t bet on the events they play in or on professional events in general, that hasn’t stopped gambling between players in the past.
Rumors of money games during practice rounds on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour levels have got the wink-wink treatment for years. So why the sudden change for something that appears relatively harmless.
“Obviously, the stuff with Phil [Mickelson] came out a couple of months ago — may have stirred the pot a little bit,” he said. “Again, Vince and I were the first ones flagged. Going off that, it is what it is. I’ve accepted my punishment.”
He had completed the PGA Tour’s Integrity Program after making it through the Form Tour Q-school.
“I had conditional status. I hadn’t seen the course or sniffed an event,” he said. “Not an excuse. I was still part of the PGA Tour, but it didn’t feel like I was there. I wasn’t in it. I wasn’t playing… I understand the principle of it, but it wasn’t like I maliciously — I’m betting this because I know I can win, and I don’t think I’m going to get caught kind of thing. It was a blank space, a $25 bet.”
He would make the subsequent bets for the DeChambeu, Koepka exhibition match. Staiano retook the Integrity Program course because he earned conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I truly didn’t think it was considered a professional golf event,” Staiano said. “That’s my fault for being naïve and not understanding what that was. It’s a vague gray area — I understand that betting on golf is wrong.”
A detailed look into Staiano’s investigation timeline
The craziest part of it all isn’t the ridiculous amount Staiano bet, but the timeline of how he found out the PGA Tour was aware.
In May of 2023, he received a call from someone at the PGA Tour informing him that he was involved with an integrity violation. Staiano didn’t think much of it because it had been years since he had made those bets. He thought it could have been a mistake.
A month later, a third-party source from Colorado associated with gambling reached out to him at the TPC Colorado event, The Ascendant.
He spoke to the investigator for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
The investigator explained the evidence that existed and asked the 27-year-old if he placed those wages. Staiano correctly did not deny it. A couple months passed.
The former Colorado State Ram was trying to keep his Korn Ferry card. With only one top-20 on the year, he needed to fight. Staiano eventually reached the playoffs but his season ended in Boise, the first playoff event.
Only after his season concluded did he hear once more about the betting incident.
The PGA Tour contacted and informed him an email was coming with the tour’s final decision.
Staiano checked the player’s handbook and saw there were various degrees of penalties for this kind of situation. It varied from a slap on the wrist to never being allowed to play in any PGA Tour event again.
He waited another week until he received a letter from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“I get an email from Mr. Monahan saying ‘you’re suspended three months, effective September 11th to December 11th.’ I’m doing the math and that’s Q-School… smack dab in the middle of Q-School.”
Staiano quickly decided to appeal the judgment.
An appeal cut short; time to start over for Staiano
For Staiano, though, the appeal process didn’t get very far.
The procedure includes three third-party arbiters. One represents the tour, one for Staiano, and a third agreed upon by both parties.
Unfortunately, that never happened.
“If I would have appealed it and lost, I would have had to pay the fees for all three arbiters, which, who knows, they could charge a grand an hour for 10 hours, and I’m looking at 30 grand if I lose,” he said.
After discussing it with his parents, he decided it wasn’t worth the risk. The PGA Tour did give him back his $4,500 Q-School entry fee.
“I just want to make sure other guys understand exactly what happened so they don’t make the same mistake,” Staiano said. “It could be career-altering. I’m treating it like it’s not, but you never know. I may never get a chance to get back through Q-School. I don’t want that to happen to other people.”
Could these two be the first of many professional golfers who will serve suspensions for gambling?
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.