WINTER HAVEN, Florida – Throughout the 2020 season and across 20 tournaments, the Symetra Tour will celebrate its 40th anniversary. The festivities are set to kick off this week with the 12th annual Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at the Country Club of Winter Haven.
The Symetra Tour is the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour. The Tour’s mission is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour. Since Symetra’s inaugural sponsorship year in 2012, the Symetra Tour has grown from 16 tournaments and $1.7 million in prize money to a record $4.0 million in prize money awarded in 2019. With more than 600 alumnae moving on to the LPGA, former Symetra Tour players have won a total of 445 LPGA titles.
A year after eclipsing the $4 million threshold in total prize money for the first time in Tour history, continuous growth remains steady. An average purse size of $180,000 this season is the highest mark in the 40-year history of the Tour, up nearly 50 percent from $121,000 in 2015. It’s also the seventh straight year to see an increase in average purse size.
“Delighted is putting it mildly and the purses totaling over $4 million blows me away,” said Symetra Tour founder Eloise Trainor, who made the trip to Winter Haven and will serve as the first-tee announcer for all three days of competition. “Well done LPGA and couldn’t be happier for the players. Am I proud? You bet.”
In 1981, Trainor founded the Symetra Tour which began as the Tampa Bay Mini Tour and was renamed the Futures Golf Tour starting in the 1984 season. SBC Communications signed a multi-year agreement to serve as title sponsor from 1999-2001, before Duramed took the reins from 2006-2010. The LPGA Tour acquired the Futures Tour in July of 2007 to introduce it as the official qualifying tour. Known as the LPGA Futures Tour in 2011, the financial services company Symetra assumed naming rights to the “Road to the LPGA” as entitlement partner in 2012.
Once again this year, the top-10 in the Volvik Race for the Card at the end of the season will earn full LPGA Tour membership for 2021. Three cards were awarded from 1999-2002, then from 2003-2007 that number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Since the first year, a total of 157 players have graduated to the big stage.
“A 40-year anniversary for this Tour is really incredible when you think of how the corporate and media support for women’s sports when Eloise had the initial idea was not a fraction of what it is today,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer for the Symetra Tour. “I’m sure Eloise didn’t dream what she started would become part of the LPGA Tour, graduating players directly to the LPGA, and that those winning tournaments today would receive first place checks greater than entire purses back when things began. For us, it is humbling to be a part of celebrating what Eloise started 40 years ago. Without her vision, I’m not sure if the LPGA ever creates a qualifying tour for the next generation. The impact of the Symetra Tour and the fact it has such a history of success, especially in recent years, is incredible. If we were to start this tour now, I can’t imagine how long it would take to get to where it is today.”
Symetra Tour graduates over the years include 2020 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio champion Madelene Sagstrom, who secured the Symetra Tour single-season earnings record when she captured $167,064 in 2016 en route to Player of the Year honors, as well as three-time LPGA Tour champion Nelly Korda, 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Hannah Green, three-time Solheim Cup Team USA member Gerina Piller, and World Golf Hall of Fame members Lorena Ochoa and Inbee Park. Other active LPGA members who have won on the Symetra Tour include Brooke Henderson, Annie Park and Celine Boutier, the last two being a 2015 and 2017 graduate, respectively.
“Over my 10 years, we’ve moved most all of our player development, training and guidance programs to the Symetra Tour level, so players are ready when they get to the LPGA,” said LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan. “The quality of play on the Symetra Tour is the highest in history—which means winning is harder than ever, and the difference between Symetra and the LPGA Tour is so much closer than ever before. Eloise had a vision, and didn’t let anyone stop her from achieving her dream. That’s what it took. Same thing on the LPGA. If you ask the LPGA Founders, they fought it their whole career in an effort to leave the sport better for generations to come. If you’re looking for an example of that, you wouldn’t go any farther than Eloise Trainor.”