Less than two weeks after announcing Epson as the new title sponsor of the “Road to the LPGA,”, the Epson Tour unveiled its 2022 schedule featuring record-setting total purses and average purse size, as well as the largest single-event prize in Tour history.
The 21-tournament schedule will take the Epson Tour to 13 states and offer $4.41 million in total prize money, for an average purse size of $210,000. Both figures eclipse the previous all-time records for total prize money ($4 million) and average purse size ($194,000) set in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Good news for the likes of Northern Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey who’s chomping at the bit to get her 2022 season into swing.
“It’s been nice to come back and get into a routine and get back to work, and I’m very excited for this season,” Mehaffey says. “I’ve had a great first month back here training, and I think for the first time in a while, I feel quite optimistic about this year and I’m very excited for it.
“It’s going to be a little bit up in the air,” she says with regards to her own schedule, given she also holds status on the LET.
“I sat down with my coach and we were talking about planning this year. I promised I wasn’t going to split myself between two tours. The Epson Tour and Ladies European Tour have really good incentives, from getting your card to getting through Q series. So, there are two things that I wanted to take advantage off.
“In terms of starting out, I’m going to play in one of my sponsor’s events in Arizona, and that’s very important for me, so that’s in March. I’m going to see how many Epson invites I can get in, there’s a reshuffle, I think at the end of May. So if I play decently I get some starts.
“Then I’m leaning towards focusing on Epson Tour and depending on how that all works out, then I might go to Europe. I have pretty good status in Europe, I will get into most events. I could go either way.”
The season officially begins March 4-6 with the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven in Florida at the Country Club of Winter Haven.
“We’re grateful for tournament partners and host venues that continue to invest in Epson Tour athletes,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of LPGA Qualifying Tours. “Five years ago, fewer than 1 in 5 tournaments were playing for a $200,000 purse. Now this mark is the new minimum threshold for every event, opening new doors for all individuals chasing their dream of one day playing on the LPGA Tour.”
“To see the Epson Tour continue to elevate since I graduated in 2016 is great for the game of golf,” said Ally Ewing, the newest Player Director on the LPGA Board. “I earned just over $110,000 when purse sizes averaged roughly $139,000, so a 50% growth over such a short span is both encouraging and essential to creating a financially viable path for these future LPGA Tour members.”
Another monumental milestone on the 2022 Epson Tour schedule is the largest purse in Tour history of $335,000 belonging to the French Lick Resort Charity Championship contested on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, which has hosted the Epson Tour since 2017 and previously on its Donald Ross Course. The $50,000 winner’s check from the tournament will amount to more than the season earnings ($47,283) of P.K. Kongkraphan in 2013, the No. 1 player in the Race for the Card that year.
“French Lick Resort has enjoyed hosting the Epson Tour, and we are proud to lead the way in elevating this tournament and Tour in support of these aspiring LPGA Tour players,” said Dave Harner, Director of Golf at French Lick Resort.
The Epson Tour welcomes three new events to the family in 2022: one to be named at Ol’ Colony Golf Course in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Wildhorse Ladies Classic at Wildhorse Golf Course in Pendleton, Ore., and Ann Arbor’s Road to the LPGA powered by the A2 Sports Commission in Ann Arbor, Mich. at Travis Pointe Country Club, which hosted the LPGA Tour’s Volvik Championship from 2016-18. Additionally, the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will visit a new city for a third straight year when it stops at Kinston Country Club in Kinston, N.C. from June 8-12.
“We strive to bring new, first-class venues to the schedule, and that sometimes includes returning to top sites like Travis Pointe, which hosted the LPGA Tour for three years,” said Nichols. “It is important that Epson Tour athletes compete on LPGA-caliber courses, so finding the best facilities for competition is a top priority when building our annual schedule.”
The 2022 season will conclude with the Epson Tour Championship from Oct. 6-9 in Daytona Beach, Fla., at LPGA International. The top 10 on the Race for the Card money list at the tournament’s completion will receive LPGA Tour membership for 2023 and the chance to serve as an Epson Tour Ambassador, a new program initiated by Epson upon the launch of their sponsorship. The 10 individuals will be offered $10,000 apiece to jumpstart their LPGA career and in turn, wear the Epson Tour logo on their sleeve.
“I thought it was incredible that a global brand like Epson was putting the money into the Tour, and not only just saying, ‘Here’s some money. Now you’re on the Tour, go on with your life.’ They are actually supporting us, supporting women’s golf,” said Fatima Fernandez Cano, an Epson Tour graduate in 2020 and 2021, and the first representative of the Epson Tour Ambassador Program.
“You graduate, you get the option for a sponsorship, that’s huge for any of us. Somebody like me, I’m new to the Tour. There’s many expenses, everything is new, and for them to support me not just through the Epson Tour but also on to the next level, that’s just huge.”