Thursday, March 19

The Proving Ground for Future LPGA Tour Stars


Cristie Kerr played the Futures Tour early in her career.
(dnkbdotcom/Flickr)

By Dave Andrews
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


FOR THOSE OF YOU who don’t know, the Duramed Futures Tour is the official developmental tour of the LPGA. It is roughly the equivalent of the Nationwide Tour in men’s professional golf.

Every year the top money winners on the tour earn automatic LPGA membership. Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, Christina Kim, Meaghan Francella and dozens of other current LPGA members played on the Futures Tour early in their professional careers.

The tour’s 2009 season gets underway tomorrow in Winter Haven, Florida. It will take 144 young women professionals to 17 events across the country over the next six months, ending in Albany, New York, in early September.

The top 10 money winners on the tour will gain automatic membership in the LPGA for the 2010 season. Competing on the Duramed Futures Tour is the primary way, other than the LPGA Q School process, for a player to earn her way onto the LPGA Tour.

That is why you will find some of the best young women professionals from around the world competing on the Futures Tour each season. Close to 30 countries are represented on the tour. Many are former All-Americans from the best college programs in the United States.

The players will each spend close to $35,000 over the course of a season in entry fees and traveling expenses, driving from one tour stop to the next, with the goal of finishing the season high on the money list. The average purse in the tour’s 17 events this year is about $110,000. The winner of each event will make $10,000 to $15,000. Only the top 10 or 15 players on the tour will earn enough money over the season to pay their expenses.

These Players Are Good


These players are putting in their dues for the chance to rise to the LPGA level. They are trying to fulfill a dream that many of them have had since they were teenagers and first developed a talent and love for the game.

I had never heard of the Duramed Futures Tour until four years ago when one of its events came to my little public course in Concord, New Hampshire. Like many of my golfing friends, I volunteered to work at that first event. I was curious to learn more about these young women pros from all around the world and to see what their games were like.

I was not disappointed.

These players are good. Many that I have watched at my home course are now stars on the LPGA Tour. The tour’s return to Concord is always a highlight of the summer for me and many of my friends. We have gotten to know several of the young women pros over the years, and it is a thrill to watch their progress and root for them on their way to fulfilling their dreams.

I became such a big fan of the players on the tour that I wrote a novel and screenplay about the tour. Pops and Sunshine is the story of a young rookie on the tour and her dream and struggle to make it to the LPGA Tour. I was inspired to write the story after learning the personal stories of several of the real-life young pros that have battled each season.

If you ever have the chance to take in a Duramed Futures Tour event in your area, don’t pass it up. You will meet some of the nicest young women you will ever get to know, and you will have a chance to watch some of the best young women golfers you will ever see.

Sparse Coverage


Unfortunately, the Duramed Futures Tour does not get much coverage in the golf media or on the sports pages of your local newspaper. Ironically, many of the players on Golf Channel’s popular Big Break series have come from the ranks of the tour, but Golf Channel pays very little attention to the tour itself during the season.

The Duramed Futures Tour provides complete coverage of its events, player profiles, real-time scoring and a list of the money leaders and individual player statistics at http://duramedfuturestour.com.


Dave Andrews is the author of Pops and Sunshine, and a freelance golf writer and member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He spent 30 years in the television news industry.

7 comments :

One-Eyed Golfer said...

Thanks, Dave...

I am probably wrong, but can't they come up with a way to 'cover' these girls' entry fees? Lower the purse equal to the loss in entry fees or some other way? A special uction or raffle on pro-am selection night? Something? These girls really struggle unless they are in the top 4-5 on this tour or the top 40 or so on the LPGA.

It's not like they allow just anyone in these events and you have to charge to discourage poor players. These are quality young ladies and quality golfers.

Rob Duval said...

Funny you should mention that, One-Eye...

First, the Tour did change the money payout two seasons ago. The girls only get paid if they make the cut; prior to two seasons ago, girls at the bottom of the field on Sunday were getting checks in the sub $100 range (on a $450 entry fee!). I actually met one girl who was tied at the bottom of the field one event who got a check for something along the lines of $10. The change was that all girls that make the cut get their entry fees back. The upside is that if you play on Sunday, you know you're tournament is paid for. The downside is that the money list tends to get bunched beyond number 20.

Second, in response to the costs that these girls encounter in their struggle, Dave, myself, and a number of our friends and friends of the Duramed FUTURES Tour have joined together to start a non-profit Foundation to try to help out. The Future Stars Foundation (www.futurestarsfoundation.com) is a grass roots effort to raise funds to help out struggling golfers on the DFT. We held our first Pro-Am fundraiser last month in Florida, and had a great turn out of 23 DFT pros and somewhere around 50 amateurs. We look forward to continuing the fundraising, and hope to make a difference for these wonderful young pros.

Ryan Ballengee said...

Dave, great piece. Really enjoyed it. And also thanks for being on our LPGA podcast recently!

The Constructivist said...

Great piece, Dave!

What do you think of my preseason top 50 projections?

http://mlyhlss.blogspot.com/2009/03/2009-futures-tour-preview-mostly.html

Heather said...

Thanks Dave for working tirelessly for the Duramed FUTURES tour. I have learned so much from the conversations I have had with these players. I really admire them for having the guts and drive to go for their dreams. The pressure must be intense, yet the golfers I have talked to have such great attitudes. I hope to hit a Duramed FUTURES event in Ohio this summer.

Great post! Excellent choice Neil on a guest writer.

Lancer said...

Excellent article. I knew nothing about this until reading this piece. These girls are really chasing their dream and they've got to want it pretty bad to succeed. Good luck to all of them.

Sam What Am said...

This town had a Futures event for a couple of years. My recollection is that Cristie Kerr won one of them. Yes, it deserves support. They DO have Duramaed as a tour name sponsor, which helps.
There is some local financial assistance for the players. Often a hotel will offer them a discount for a program mention. At this tournament, families who lived at the golf course offered housing to the players.
For all the quality of TV sports production, there's something about being there, and the Futures and Nationwide Tours are a way to do it...