By bringing professional golf to the athletes and creating more playing opportunities, the ECWPGT is poised to grow women’s professional golf
(Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) – The ECWPGT announced its Official Tour schedule on Friday, March 25th, to its Membership of professional female players and its Advisory Board. The Official Tour Schedule is divided into geographic pods, the first being the Florida Launch pod with the Official Tour Kickoff on May 11-13 in Sebring (FL) at the Sun n’ Lake Golf Club immediately following the three Florida-based qualifiers for the U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Daytona Beach is the next stop for the Florida Launch pod at the LPGA International Jones Course, on the same course for the Epson Tour Championship in October.
In December, after running the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, what he thought would be the only professional golf tournament in the arsenal of his event management company, MediaShare Consulting Group, Mark D. Berman purchased the Florida-based NWGA, a 16-year-old women’s tour which had produced many LPGA players. He quickly rebranded and rebuilt it as the ECWPGT to cast a wider footprint with the mission of creating more economically viable playing and earning opportunities for professional female golfers. After a successful Florida-based Winter Series with seven tournaments in 120 days, the distribution of $150,000 in earnings, 160 different rising-star players, many of whom went on to the Epson Tour, the LPGA’s official feeder tour, the ECWPGT is ready to host its inaugural season.
With a global explosion of female golf talent, particularly in the United States and a host of players matriculating from the college ranks this spring, the ECWPGT was created by golf industry veteran Mark D. Berman as a response to seeing how few tournaments there are for professional females to “go to work” based on his own daughter’s experience. Including the ECWPGT, there are only three developmental tours in the USA., the other two being the Cactus Tour based in Arizona and the WAPT based in Texas. While all three tours will have their share of future LPGA stars, the ECWPGT is positioned to deliver a more economically viable pathway for women in the Eastern third of the country where no professional events at this level currently exist.
The Official Tour schedule begins in Florida, and then travels to the Northeast, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. To replicate the Epson Tour experience, each tournament will be 54 holes with a cut after 36 holes. The Tour will also host its exclusive Q-School Prep Series in California, South Florida, and Alabama on the same courses as the LPGA Tour hosts its qualifying events. The PXG Women’s Match Play Championship will again be hosted at World Golf Village from October 30-November 6.
In addition to playing for prize money, the top two highest points earners for the season will receive a paid exemption into the PXGWMPC.
Below is the Official Tour schedule through August, when the tour takes a short break for LPGA Q School, before coming back for its Southeastern Pod. The complete schedule can be found on the website at www.ECWPGT.com.
Florida Launch Pod
May 11-13 | Sebring, FL | Sun n’ Lakes Golf Course
May 18-20 | Daytona Beach, FL | LPGA International Jones Course
July 5-7 | Braselton, GA | Chateau Elan Winery & Resort Woodlands Course
July 11-13 | Savannah, GA | Savannah Golf Club
July 18-20 | Athens, GA | University of Georgia Golf Club, The GA State Open, presented by ECWPGT and Mizuno Golf
Florida Women’s Open Warmup
July 29-31 | Fort Myers, FL | Plantation Golf and Country Club
Q School Prep Series
August 8-9 | Desert Palms, CA | Mission Hills Golf Club Arnold Palmer Course
August 11-12 | Rancho Mirage, CA | Marriott’s Shadow Ridge
October 10-11 | Fort Myers, FL | Plantation Golf & Country Club Panther and Bobcat courses
Said Berman, “We’re creating events in areas where players are currently underserved, helping them cut down on front-end costs.” He added, “We are committed to a tournament experience that demonstrates how valued and meaningful these players are as women and athletes, while preparing them for the Epson
Tour and LPGA Q School.
Travel costs eat up budgets for developmental tour players who pay their own entry fees, which largely fund tournament purses. Most U.S. professional players below the LPGA level are self-funded and do not have big sponsor contracts like their male peers at the same level nor a national program behind them like so many international players. While men and women have the same expenses, there are dozens of developmental men’s tours with significantly larger purses making it viable for them to be on the road for 10-12 weeks at a time. “Women can’t really do that because the revenue potential is so limited,” explains Berman, likening the men to national companies while the women are more like a regional businesses. Many female professional players have side jobs to which they must return to make up the delta between earnings and expenses. The ECWPGT creates a regionalized approach narrowing the gap between the high cost of playing and the low earnings potential, changing the current structure that requires players to go on the road for weeks at a time with little chance breaking even, let alone turning a profit.
For example, the 2021 WAPT money winner, Jessica Porvasnik, earned $23,000 during its official money season and an additional $13,000 winning the PXGWMPC. By traveling to State Opens and playing on the then-named NWGA, she earned another $17,000 but barely breaking even in what was an incredibly successful year. Porvasnik, an All-American at Ohio State, was one of many players with whom Berman spoke before launching the ECWPGT to ensure he understood the financial challenges of women’s developmental professional golf. Porvasnik is now on the ECWPGT Advisory Board which Berman uses to help guide the tour. “Mark cares a lot about women’s golf and is committed to building a tour around the players, providing an avenue to hone in on skills needed for the next level.” said Porvasnik.
Jess McAlister, owner of Digital Golf Collective, a golf industry marketing and branding company, and ECWPGT Advisory Board member, sees the challenges these women face and believes the ECWPGT’s vision can help shape the future. “This tour will draw a lot of players off the sidelines who are simply not playing, yet want to, and waiting for Q School, where they end up most times unprepared,” said McAlister. She added, “Now we’ll get to see them, meet them, and hear their stories before they get to the LPGA. There are so many good players who need the time to develop, and it’s important to expand that pathway. Streamlining this developmental level is the pipeline for the LPGA’s future.”
“The PXGWMPC gave us a 10-day focus group which reinforced our belief in the need for more playing opportunities, but also shed light on the need to expand the actual geography,” said Berman. “Hearing their stories motivated us to get even more involved with their success.”
About the East Coast Professional Women’s Golf Tour
A highly competitive professional women’s golf tour, the ECWPGT is open primarily to the developmental professional players aspiring to the LPGA Tour or working their way back. The tour will accept amateur players ages 15 and over on a waitlist basis as space permits. Current card-holding members of the LPGA Tour are not admitted to ECWPGT events unless returning from maternity leave or injury and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Registration for tournaments is currently open on the Tour’s website www.ECWPGT.com.
Contact: Mark D. Berman