The Epson Tour Makes A Big Investment In Women’s Professional Golf
A name change that comes with actual change
By Ryan French
The Symetra Tour is becoming the Epson Tour, and brings three big changes for women’s golf.
High entry fees, low payouts, and debt carried over when a player graduates to the next level are the unfortunate truths of what life is like for players who aren’t competing on the top tours around the world. Those issues are worse on the women’s side. Epson has decided it’s time to do something about it, and on Wednesday the electronics company announced it will become the title sponsor of the developmental women’s tour.
Name changes on tours happen occasionally, but they rarely come with a goal to potentially change the careers of players. Before Epson executives decided to sponsor the tour, they asked for the goals the tour wanted to accomplish. Mike Nichols, the CEO of the newly named Epson Tour, identified three things.
- Lower entry fees, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them
- Bigger purses
- Assistance for players who advance to the next level with the costs of graduating while creating an ambassador program for future graduating classes
“I honestly hoped they picked one because it would have been a huge step forward for the tour,” Nichols said. Epson went two better, saying yes to all three initiatives.
The most significant change involves entry fees, which are currently $500 per event. So a player with a 20-event schedule is in the hole $10,000 before even hitting a shot. Throw in travel expenses, and it’s not hard to see how expensive pro golf can be. Epson has challenged other companies to invest enough to lower the entry fee by $50. It will be the first company to do so. “It’s basically giving every player a $1,000 check,” Nichols said. The near-term goal is to cut the entry fees in half, with a long-range goal of eliminating them. “Finances shouldn’t be a barrier to pro golf,” Epson CEO Keith Kratzberg said. “We want to help eliminate those barriers.”
For the first time in the history of the women’s developmental tour, the minimum purse will be $200,000, with select purses bigger than that. As a reference, in 2012 the average purse size was $109,000. An almost 100 percent increase in purse size over 10 years is something to celebrate.
As a player advances to the next level, the expenses grow. The pressure to perform early in the season can be overwhelming, especially for players with financial burdens. Having a cushion to account for early-season missed cuts can be a huge relief. To help the players, the last initiative will be giving each of the 10 players who earn their LPGA Tour cards $10,000 through what will be called the “Epson Tour Ambassador Program.”
Fatima Fernandez Cano will be Epson’s first brand ambassador. Fernandez Cano has played four seasons on the tour and will be a member of the LPGA Tour in 2022 after finishing second on the Symetra Tour money list in 2021. “It’s so great to see them invest in this tour,” she said. “There was a time that you made a cut and didn’t even make your entry fee back. They have brought it so far.”
This is an excellent day for the women’s game. Women’s careers are much shorter than men’s in professional tour golf. These initiatives will address the financial difficulties for many of the women pursuing their dreams. More needs to be done, but this is a significant step.