Thursday, March 19
The Proving Ground for Future LPGA Tour Stars
Cristie Kerr played the Futures Tour early in her career.
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.
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.