An even better question is how many amateurs entered past or present work 40+ hours per week on top of training their own dog. That would be even more rare and I would think darn near impossible, but respectable to say the least.
As to the "true" amateur versus pro argument, I look at it this way:
1) Just due to the fact that it is their full time profession over a long period of time, most Pros are better handlers than most amateurs, that said the very best amateurs can hold their own as a handler against anyone.
2) Tactically in a field trial, pros have an advantage over amateurs in their ability to go to school on a number of dogs as they learn the best way to approach a test, I get two shots, they might get twenty.
3) That advantage can be outweighed by the extremely personal relationship a dedicated amateur has with his dog. Assuming the dog is as talented as the best and the amateur trainer is a handler of the highest level,
that dog-handler team can become super-tight and a formidable team over time.
4) If I'm in a holding blind between Mike Lardy and Danny Farmer, it is of no consequence whatever, I need to concentrate on the test, not other handlers except to maybe learn some nuance by watching them handle
their dogs. We need to do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may during call backs and placements.
There is a huge spectrum of amateurs handlers in our sport, that runs from the do-it-all-themselves trainers such as Chris Hatch and my buddy Jim, to the few who haven't trained their dog a day in their life, the huge majority are somewhere in between those two extremes. Many are like me, I do a lot of my training, keeping my dogs home for months at a time, over decades I have learned from other amateurs like Jim and from very good coaching Pros such as Eric Fangsrud, so I'm comfortable setting up test and taking my dogs through a program. Then I might find myself too busy at work and or unable to make a seasonal road trip so my dogs may be with a pro for months at a time. I admire Jim and Chris to a great extent, but at the end of the day we are all competing against each other on an equal basis.
Even amateurs, whose dogs have never been handled by a pro are generally still significantly influenced by a pro(s). It would be virtually impossible for an amateur to gain enough knowledge and technique from just deciding to start training his dogs one day to run FTs & be even a little successful. With that said & apart from extreme examples, I see no real separating factor to distinguish some amateurs from another. Sure we can distinguish the extremes, the totally pro-trained dog where the owner just shows up to handle the dog in an amateur stake versus the dog whose owner trains the dog virtually all the time & handles the dog in opens & amateur stakes. And of those in the latter category, many of those amateurs still train "with" pros, using the pros setups, birds and help. In my case, I have done all of the young dog training on all of my dogs except two. And I have done about 1/2 of the year's AA training without pro presence. In the other half of the year, I have trained "with" Dave Smith for about 3 months and the dogs have been trained by Dave Smith with me not there about 3 mos (I like to hunt & take a summer vacation too). I handle the dogs in both opens & Ams except for an avg of 3 trials (of approx 20) that I run each year. Sure Dave Smith would love to keep my dogs & run them himself (& he might even do it better) but I'm not in this game to be a spectator and by handling my dogs most all of the time, I know my dogs better than some pros know the ones they train because I only have 3-4 to keep up with.
So apart from the extremes noted, I think there is little distinction among most successful amateurs only a little gray. And for those amateurs who can train every day and have access to good grounds whenever, they have money in addition to time.........time & money being the foundation ingredients for success with some good eyesight and reaction skills thrown in to make them very competitive - and of course the main ingredient, a great dog.
A couple thoughts. Using the definition of amatuer vs pro to me has different values. I see folks that are so called amateurs with a truck load of dogs and have hundreds or thousands of acres of land to train on and train in large groups. Then I see a working stiff that trains by themselves during the week and weekends when they have time with a group. I know a bunch that fit in both category and no offense to Danny or Mike but could give a rat rump if they ran between them. If you look at the end of the day the am by percentage may be more successful entries vs wins/points.
Not sure about NAFC but in 2006 NFC-AFC Dr. Copper Phd. MH won the National with owner/trainer/handler Wayne Dodson. She was a hunt test dog, hunting companion, and amazing animal being amateur trained.
Post #43 really sums it up. People who have accomplished this goal- all while employed and raising a family TRUE amateurs are few- those whom I remember and by this I do not mean someone like myself who has relied heavily on Rex Carr, Andy Attar, Jim VanEngen, and Dave Rorem. Those that I can recall are Bob Willow and Ray Goodrich, a crane operator(he can move a lot of dirt fast) and an attorney who piloted his own plane and showed up too often in my geographical area, damn his dogs were good and Ray is a declining breed in today's society-HE IS A GENTLEMAN. What you have never heard of Ray? Well those determining the final ballot people apparently have not either. Ray Goodrich is 91 years old, lives in Santa Cruz, California. Ray today trains everyday and still competes in Licensed trials. So much for the present day.Ray has DoubleHeaders with two different dogs--Rascal and Brig.Ray judged a National Amateur Stake, Ray has won a National Amateur stake, Ray has gone up the ladder of National officer status and served as a National officer. Ray Incidentally owned the high point OPEN dog in the same year that the dog died (April from a training accident) YES Rascal had enough placements by April of the year in which he died to achieve the title "High Point Open Dog". Every 4 years the National Retriever Club has been granted permission to have full use of his property in Oakdale, Ca. where they have held their event. Without that venue there would be problems. Unfortunately through the years the POOH BAHS who ran the selection of candidates overlooked Ray for the RHOF.Primarily their interests lay with who had the most money to donate to The Bird Dog Foundation, those often were never active trainers only owners. I am not going to try to send out requests to name Ray as a candidate for the RHOF- often this leads to people being nominated who are deserving, yet whose credentials can't hold a candle to the record of Raymond Goodrich as a GENTLEMAN, a National WINNER and JUDGE, and a DoubleHeader winner-2 different dogs and four plus years as a National Officer, and every four years the host of the NRCCS. So who will this year's selection committee decide to include? I hope that whomever it is that they have added to ALL phases of our sport and then compiled a record. I for one will be casting my choice for nomination to Ray Goodrich before he dies-there are other worthy candidates, so let the games begin.