Which sports have the biggest & smallest gap between pros and regular people?

In which sport is the gap between pros and regular people the largest, and in which is it the smallest?

(By “regular person”, I mean a non-professional in that sport, who happens to be good at it and plays it at least semi-regularly)

For example, in bowling, if the pros average, say, 250, how close do people who play on a semi-regular basis and are good at it get?

For example, I assume that if a regular person played against any major tennis pro, they would get annihilated (in terms of final score). So the pro/regular gap in tennis is large.

And I assume that in some sports, the difference in scores is small (in these sports, getting those few extra points is extremely hard and is what separates the pros). Maybe golf?

So, overall, what do you guys propose are the sports with the largest and smallest gaps between pros and regulars?

In terms of level of performance, however you measure such a thing, I think all sports would be about the same. So it’s obviously a question of scoring mechanisms, but unfortunately scoring mechanisms are not neat, linear things. Even in the same sport, several approaches to scoring are possible - in golf, for example, there’s per-stroke scoring but there’s also per-hole (match play). The same round of golf could have a different winner under the two scoring systems (although obviously the scoring system feeds back into how the players play). Or in tennis - a player might lose a match in straight sets, but win close to half of the points. Under such scoring regimes it is not easy to say that one performance is x% better than another.

In general, I think simpler events and scoring systems would have more equitable results, because then at least inferior players have a chance to get something on the board. Events where you measure a simply tally of points or some metric of how good the performace was, as in most track and field events for example.

I have no idea what it might be now, but in the late 1960s the Pro-Am gap
was apparently not too wide in tennis.

At the first Wimbledon of the Open Era in 1968 the amateurs played the
pros dead even into the semis, which featured Rod Laver (pro) vs Arthur Ashe
(am) and Tony Roche (pro, I think) vs Clark Graebner (am).

The great Laver won it all in a tune-up for his Grand Slam next year, 1969.
Laver is the only person to have won two Grand Slams, one as an amateur
in 1961. He is the only male to have accomplished the feat so far in the
43 years of Open tennis.

Laver’s semifinals opponent, Arthur Ashe, still an amateur, completed a rout
of the professionals by winning later in the year at Forest Hills.

Bowling is a good one for smallest gap. It’s a professional league where only the top 20-25 or so earn over $50,000/yr. I suppose they get endorsements and such, but it is probably pretty common for a very good bowler to leave the tour because they can make more money as a car salesman, and bowl every thursday in a local league.

Football, OTOH, I see as being one of the largest gaps. A Semi-Pro team isn’t going to make the slightest headway against an NFL team. Even if they had the raw talent to compete, there’s simply not enough time to practice for a team of job having amateurs to be the cohesive unit they have to be to have a chance.

If by “sport” you mean “something that gets shown on ESPN”, another answer might be poker. Plenty of folks who don’t play for a living get far in tournaments amongst those who do play for a living.

The gap is so huge in any major professional sport that it’s hard to answer; there’s basically no sport in which a club pro or young football coach or other dedicated amateur is going to have a chance. I’d think that leagues like the NFL or NBA where players have to have certain builds might be even harder for the average guy to compete in, but honestly I don’t know that it would be worse for your average guy to post up an NBA center than to hit an MLB fastball; in either case he’d just be humiliated.

So your answer for smallest gap would be something like lacrosse, where there apparently is a pro league, but one in which players have to hold down day jobs to make ends meet.

Hell, even 2010 Auburn would likely be crushed by the 2010 Carolina Panthers (one of the worst NFL teams).

I’d say that the more individual-oriented sports are the ones where the pro/am divide is probably smallest- ones like golf, etc…

Now, every single male player in the top 100 could annihilate every single non-pro in the world. I mean, the level of tennis in the last 40-50 years has gone up by a ton.

In fact, I heard John McEnroe talking just the other day. He said that if you took 1980 him or Jimmy Connors and put them up against any man in the top 20, he and Jimmy Connors would get killed every single time. The top 20 men of today are on an entirely different level of the men from 1980.

And that is vs. our top pros from just 30 years ago, not to mention regular people.

Air racing? Since most average people can’t even fly an aircraft. Never mind one that pulls up to 12g


College distance runners can get within(more or less) 10% of the world records in distance running.

That’s not because the skill gap is small, that’s because the sport isn’t that popular. I can assure you, there is a huge difference between a regular lacrosse player and a pro.

I think we had a similar thread here about 6 months ago.

Something about “could you win a single point against the worst ranked tennis player”, I believe.

I’d guess sports that depends a lot of physical attributes, like boxing for biggest gap.
Someone who boxes as a hobby at his local club is liable to be knocked out very quickly by someone who makes a living from such, and basically has zero chance of actually winning.

OTOH if we think in terms of becoming a professional, I would think that it is possible for someone relatively “old” to take up boxing for the first time and become a professional in a year, say.
…whereas many other sports require you to take up the sport as a child, and train continually. So it depends a lot on how to interpret the OP.

Every time a professional hockey player gets called up from the AHL to fill in a gap in the NHL, a major part of the transition is how quickly they adapt to the more physical and faster game. The physical speed and the decision-making time is noticeably faster in the NHL than in the sport just one tier below it. A player that absolutely dominates in the lower level often struggles in the upper one. Considering that, your average garage league player would either get pasted into the boards in the NHL or would simply be out-staked and out-stickhandled into oblivion.

(Barely related story that I’ve told before: I have a friend who plays in a semi-pro Montreal league and one game a few summers ago no matter what they did, they couldn’t beat the opponent’s goalie. They discovered why when the goalie took off his mask for a sip of water…it was Martin Brodeur, just keeping in shape for the summer!)

That doesn’t sound like Marty Brodeur

Found it. Like I remembered we did end up talking about other sports. For tennis it’s easy, as Crotalus indicated in the other thread the pros are playing a completely different game on a different planet than us mere mortals. In something like golf things are a bit closer between a typical scratch golfer and a top touring pro; a missed putt here, a fat bunker shot there, a failure to account for the topography of the green over there.

I would guess cycling. In the Tour de France, they ride over 2000 miles in like 21 days. It usually averages out to more than 100 miles a day. Most regular people can’t ride 100 miles and the ones that do, only do it a few times a year. The pros do it almost every day for 3 weeks straight. That’s only one race too, there’s a lot of races each year.

Can I barely relate one too?

We were getting killed by a team who probably should have been in a division higher. Their goalie was out stick handling us behind his own net. In the handshake after the game I asked who he played for. The answer was the Prince George Cougars (WHL, junior hockey league, one or one and a half steps below the NHL).

And what’s even worse, the 100 miles are over 3 hours or so. Even the amateurs that could do daily centuries would take a lot more than 3 hours to do so.