The official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA adding three new events
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Three new tournaments highlight the release of the preliminary 2018 Symetra Tour schedule that will feature at least 22 tournaments and a minimum of $3 million in prize money for the third straight year. Other events are being pursued and may still be added before the start of the season.
The schedule will start with the inaugural SGIC Kickoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla., at Feather Sound Country Club from March 9-11, one of three new tournaments for 2018. May 24-26 will see the first playing of the Valley Forge Invitational at Raven’s Claw Golf Club in Montgomery County, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia. The third new event that has been secured will be announced at a later date.
“We are very excited to once again be adding new tournaments to the Symetra Tour schedule,” said Mike Nichols, Chief Business Officer for the Symetra Tour. “It shows that the interest in women’s professional golf continues to grow, allowing us to bring the Tour to new cities.”
In addition to three new tournaments, the Insurance Office of America (IOA) will expand their title sponsor portfolio from two events to three. The IOA Championship stays in Beaumont, Calif., April 6-8. The new addition will be May 4-6 for the IOA Invitational at the Atlanta National Golf Club in Milton, Ga., a past Symetra Tour venue. The final event of the trio is the IOA Classic in Longwood, Fla., set for September 28-30.
Another unique aspect to the Symetra Tour schedule—the Potawatomi Cup—is back for a fifth straight year in 2018. The seventh annual Four Winds Invitational from June 8-10 is the first of four Symetra Tour events on the schedule sponsored by Potawatomi nation tribes. The other three are the Island Resort Championship (June 22-24) in Harris, Mich., the PHC Classic (August 10-12) in Milwaukee, Wis., and the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship (August 17-19) in Battle Creek, Mich. A $40,000 unofficial money purse is available to players based on a points system for the four events.
“Our partnerships with both IOA and the Potawatomi nation tribes are the backbone of the Symetra Tour schedule, now representing a total of seven events,” Nichols said. “Year in and year out, they continue to exceed expectations, and the players love the atmosphere each creates at their events.”
The Country Club of Winter Haven will host the 10th annual Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in week two of the season from March 16-18. Another staple to the tour schedule—the Symetra Classic—returns to the Charlotte, N.C. area with a Saturday finish (May 17-19).
Several other tournaments that return on the Symetra Tour schedule include: Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic in Greenwood, S.C. (Links at Stoney Point, May 10-13); Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Decatur, Ill. (Hickory Point Golf Course, June 15-17); a Saturday finish in Indiana at the French Lick Resort (July 12-14); Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic in Rochester, N.Y. (Brook Lea Country Club, July 19-22); Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY (Capital Hills at Albany, July 27-29); Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Willow Run Golf Club, Aug. 30-Sept. 2); Garden City Charity Classic in Garden City, Kan. (Buffalo Dunes Golf Club, Sept. 7-9); and the Guardian Championship in Prattville, Ala. (Capitol Hill Golf Club, Sept. 21-23).
“The 2018 schedule offers plenty of challenging venues, both new and familiar,” said Nichols. “Every year our goal remains the same — provide the best qualifying tour in the world for rising female stars to sharpen their skills and ready themselves for the LPGA Tour.”
The season will conclude with the Symetra Tour Championship at LPGA International in Daytona Beach from October 4-7 and features the largest purse of the year on Tour at $225,000. In total, the Symetra Tour will visit 16 different states throughout the 2018 season. Florida once again leads with four tournaments, while Michigan and Indiana each check in with two.
Every year since 2008, the top 10 players on the Symetra Tour official season money list are awarded LPGA Tour membership. In 2017, three players topped the $100,000 plateau for the first time in Symetra Tour history. Benyapa Niphatsophon was the head of the class earning $124,492 without a victory, a testament to her consistency. Hannah Green ($113,880) and Celine Boutier ($112,044) followed closely behind Niphatsophon.
In addition, the 2017 season was a great one for 2016 Symetra Tour graduates. Madelene Sagstrom, the first player in Symetra Tour history to earn greater than $100,000 when she set the standard with $167,064 earned in 2016, was selected by Team Europe captain Annika Sorenstam to compete in the 2017 Solheim Cup. Eight of the 10 rookies finished inside the top 110 on the LPGA Tour official season money list, and five of the graduates (ranked in the top 70) are competing in the CME Group Tour Championship.