The LPGA and Golf Canada
Watch out, Lexi. You’re getting on, and there’s a wave of greats coming in behind you. Here’s where they’re coming from, as if you didn’t know.
In the U.S., the LPGA has truly done what it set out to do, “bringing women’s golf under one umbrella.” The developmental tour, ages 7 – 17 is now fully integrated into a training and tournament format – and get this. It’s designed so that girls and young women can “learn to play golf, build lasting friendships and experience competition in a fun, supportive environment.” For any 13th century types still sitting around grieving the lack of personal aggression in competition, your time has come. You’re being phased out. As for the competition, though, it’s just getting revved up.
A myriad of scholarships, such as the Dinah Shore (est. ’81), the Marilyn Smith (est. ’99) and the Phyllis Meekins (est. 2006) serve young players heading into college, and through diverse requirements, address need, merit and the advancement of players form recognized minorities. The LPGA Girl’s Golf Team Championship and Academy is coming up this June, on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Entrance is based on commitment and participation, and scoring only sets the flights. Now, that’s the way to do summer camp.
The Futures Tour, now known as the Symetra Tour, was established in ’81 as the Tampa Bay Mini-Tour. It became the official developmental tour in ’99, and its first three graduates to top the money list were brought onto the LPGA tour with exempt status. They were Grace Park, Marilyn Lavander and Audra Banks. In 2011, it expanded to twelve players, and thrives on its worldwide competition. Graduates include Davies, Kerr, Kim, Ochoa, Park, Prammanasudh, Francella and Webb. That can only mean one thing – the idea for girl’s golf worked.
Check the LPGA site for “Girl’s Golf,” and you will find two hundred and thirty locations throughout the U.S. , excluding only Hawaii, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Great changes are occurring in Canadian golf as well, in addition to upgrades of earlier ideas for developing the youth of the nation. Canada’s national organization, Golf Canada, has redefined the term, “Open,” by creating a premier developmental tour in its heartland, The Great Lakes Tour. This training and tournament system is absolutely unbound by gender or age – a real “Open.”
Established in 2001, the first year saw two hundred members admitted, and it’s doubled in popularity since. The system includes what is termed a “Regular Season,” open to professional and low-scoring amateurs. The “Platinum Series” is precisely what it sounds like, and ample opportunities abound for match play, admitting sixty four members as they qualify.
The Canadian National Future Link’s Girl’s Club is a going operation, taking young players through the whole process from 7 to 18. It was founded in part because of the discrepancy between boy’s and girl’s golf, and the Club seeks to, in its own words, “attract girls and retain them longer.” A strong partner of the Future Link’s Club is the Girl Guides of Canada, establishing and maintaining girls-only events across the continent.
In developing the strength of these programs, the U.S. and Canada will enhance the competitive and popularity aspects of the game. Far past that, however, are the created opportunities that can mark the difference between a path filled with dangers and one filled with opportunities. Through such a vastly popular sport, the presiding organizations of the continent are providing the athletes they train with confidence, clear thinking, foresight and good decision-making in a larger environment that doesn’t always promote such qualities. As I think of it further, it’s brilliant – building golfers and citizens by going to camp and getting together for some rounds of golf.