Many young girls have hopes and aspirations to play on the LPGA Tour just like their heroes they are watching on tv. They will participate in junior golf, high school teams, collegiate teams and participate in numerous amateur events. Some girls are the best at every level they play, winning junior events, tops on their high school and college teams. The very best will play in the US Women’s Amateur in hopes of someday making it to the top, but for even those, there is no guarantee of success on the biggest stage.
The unique aspect of individual sports compared to team sports is that there no guarantee of the weekly paycheck. If a player performs poorly and misses the 36-hole cut, then there is no pay. But before even encountering the prospects of not getting paid, those that are no automatic qualifiers for the LPGA Tour card based on their performances on the Symetra Tour, must go through the grueling qualifying tournament.
The first stage is for golfers who were on the Symetra Tour but didn’t finish in the top 125 on the money list. Generally, these players didn’t participate in enough events to earn the required money or simply didn’t play well on this developmental tour. Players of this caliber are usually a notch below the Symetra Tour and are seen in one of the mini tours. One of the most popular of which is the Cactus Tour.
Another large group of players who will go through qualifying are those not ranked in the world top 400 on the Rolex Rankings. Most of these players are certainly not household names, are amateurs, or recently turned professionals or international players looking to get a start on American soil in the LPGA Tour or Symetra Tour. Clearly this group of players are a long way from making a solid living on the LPGA Tour.
The first stage will generally be comprised of more then 300 entrants who will battle for three rounds for a chance to place among the top 125. Those that make the top 125 will advance to the final around and of those, only 60 advance to the second stage of the tournament. The brutally harsh reality is that only about 20 percent who enter stage one will continue in their quest.
Stage two features a field made up of those who advanced from stage one with golfers who were inside the top 400 in world rankings or in the top 125 on the Symetra Tour money list. The daunting and complex process to earn LPGA Tour status continues with approximately 25 players moving on to two four-day tournaments. The participants include top players from the Symetra Tour and LPGA Tour players that didn’t perform well enough the previous season to maintain their cards. In the end, 45 players will survive these final tournaments to earn LPGA status. However, they will have limited opportunities to play in events next season, so they need to make the most of their opportunities.
For those that don’t earn their cards and return to the Symetra Tour, the grind to earn a living is a real one. Top players can earn $100,000 per year but the average player on tour will have a difficult time earning enough to pay the upwards of $30,000 in travel costs and entrance fees for a full season of events. Some are fortunate enough to come from wealthy families, but it’s clearly possible for those that don’t to actually lose money during a given week. Players can often choose to stay with housing families in many stops during the season, reducing costs.
The world of women’s golf has become increasingly competitive over the past few decades with the influx of international players, particularly from Southeast Asia. There is just a hair difference between being a top Symetra Tour player and succeeding at the largest stage of the LPGA Tour. However, that “hair” is a lot more difficult to overcome than one may think. The reality is that the best players in the LPGA Tour can routinely post rounds in the 60’s and shooting par regularly simply won’t make a large number of cuts. Those par rounds are great for the most part on the lower tours, but those in the lower 70’s need to cut those last few strokes off their game to make it. The question for many is how long their keep up their fight to pursue the big stage? Some stay on the Symetra Tour for years before making it big or come to the realization that a career on the LPGA Tour is just not in the cards for them.
Understanding what it takes to become the best in the world should make all fans of the game appreciate these fine young ladies and the supreme talent they put on display week in and week out on the LPGA Tour.