Last month the LPGA released a statement, indicating that it is considering some significant changes in the way it awards its tour cards to players. Those changes could also have a big impact on its developmental Symetra Tour, and the changes could happen as soon as the 2017 LPGA Q-School.
“Regarding Q-School – we are looking at a variety of options to alter/expand Q-School for both LPGA and Symetra. We are not planning to reduce the number of cards available for the LPGA, but rather exploring different ways to allocate these cards. No official timing yet, but changes could be implemented as early as 2017.”
The LPGA is not yet releasing any additional details beyond its statement, but it has raised speculation that it may be eyeing something along the lines of the three-year old model now being used by the PGA Tour. If that were to be the case, the Symetra Tour could soon take on the role similar to the one that the Web.com Tour currently plays for the PGA Tour.
Currently, the LPGA hands out 10 cards for the following season to the top 10 money earners on the Symetra Tour each year. It also awards 20 cards to the top 20 finishers at its final stage of Q-School in Daytona Beach, Florida each December. It also gives “limited status” cards to the 21st to 45th finishers at Q-School.
Under one scenario that has been mentioned by sources not connected to the LPGA or the Symetra Tour, the top 10 money winners at the end of the Symetra Tour season would still earn their LPGA cards. Then there would be a three event playoff series in November and December (likely in Florida). In those three events, the 11th to 50th money earners on the Symetra Tour would compete against current LPGA players who failed to finish their season inside the top 100 on the LPGA’s money list. That would be another 70 players or so. 20 “full status” and another 25 “limited status” LPGA cards would be awarded to the players with the best cumulative results in those three playoff events.
The playoff series of events could also be open to a number of “elite” players on other international tours who are highly ranked in the Rolex world rankings. That would open a path to the LPGA for them without their having to spend a full season on the Symetra Tour.
A change in the LPGA’s system, following the PGA Tour model, would increase the prestige of the Symetra Tour, which the LPGA has owned since 2007. Many world class players from anywhere in the world, who are not among the elite in Rolex rankings, would first have to play on the Symetra Tour here in the United States if they wanted to play on the LPGA. The Symetra Tour already attracts players from well over 30 countries around the world each season.
As the PGA Tour does on its tour, the LPGA awards automatic tour cards to non-member winners of an LPGA event. Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun, and Brooke Henderson are three of the latest examples of LPGA players who earned their cards in that manner. They did not go through the current Q-School process. The number of players who earn their LPGA cards that way, however, is very small.
The Symetra Tour has grown to 23 events this season and is enjoying significant increases in the size of its purses being put up by its event sponsors. Its seasons now run generally from February to October with events being played in close to 16 different states. An influx of many “name” players from around the world would likely increase sponsor support and fan interest in the tour, helping it to further grow its number of events and purse sizes.
If a new system, as the kind speculated about above, is adopted by the LPGA, those two paths to the LPGA would, for practical purposes, be the only two options that most players would have. Most players from around the world would have to commit to at least one season of competing on the Symetra Tour just as PGA Tour hopefuls have to do now with the Web.com Tour.
A two stage Q-School would likely continue for players trying to make it onto the Symetra Tour. The Web.com Tour has a threestage Q-School process of its own. A Symetra Tour Q-School would be designed for players coming out of college and other young players who have turned professional. These scenarios are just speculation. The LPGA has not released any of the details of the new plan it is now exploring.
There is no question that young women players from around the globe will be anxious to learn precisely what the new system will be. If they have designs on an LPGA career they will have to adjust their playing paths accordingly to give themselves the best chances of making it to the premiere Women’s Golf tour in the world.
Dave Andrews is a retired television news reporter. He is also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.
Dave is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about a young woman pro’s dream and struggles to make it to the LPGA. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. The novel is available at Kindle Ebooks.
Follow Dave online on Twitter @PopsandSunshine