Before Lorena Ochoa, Christie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Karrie Webb and Laurie Davies ascended on the LPGA’s main stage, they all paid their dues by playing on the LPGA’s development tour. As the Nationwide Tour is to the men’s game, the Duramed FUTURES Tour has been the gateway to the top level of women’s golf for the past 29 years. The best and brightest women professionals, from around the world, compete all season long for a chance to play on the LPGA Tour. The top 10 money winners on the Duramed FUTURES Tour at the end of the season earn membership on the LPGA Tour for the following year.
The tour’s 2009 season that started in Winter Haven, Fla., in March is well underway and will take a weekly full field of 144 young women professionals, from a membership of more than 300 players from 31 different nations and 40 U.S. states, to 17 tournaments in 14 states, ending in Albany, N.Y., in early September. The competition is fierce, but training is invaluable. The 2008 average winning score on the Duramed FUTURES Tour was 3-under par 69. Twenty-one Duramed FUTURES Tour members earned their 2009 LPGA Tour membership at LPGA Q-School and a Duramed FUTURES Tour alum has won the LPGA’s top rookie honors for four of the last seven years, including two of the last three years. “The Duramed FUTURES Tour has consistently provided the next generation of talent to the LPGA and continues to showcase the best up-and-coming players from around the world,” said Zayra F. Calderon, CEO of the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
The Tour’s history began in 1981, as the Tampa Bay Mini-Tour and later in the 1980s, became the FUTURES Golf Tour. The Tour became the Duramed FUTURES Tour in 2006, when Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc., became the title sponsor. The LPGA acquired the Tour in 2007, and the Duramed FUTURES Tour is now operated out of LPGA headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., and is considered one of the world’s premier women’s golf tours. This year, Duramed FUTURES Tour members are playing for a record season purse of nearly $1.8 million. Like the LPGA Tour, Duramed FUTURES Tour events contribute heavily to local communities with more than $4.5 million donated to charitable organizations throughout the nation since 1989. “We have a well-stablished community model where professional golf is integrated with key local organizations and their charities,” added Calderon “The goal has always been to create a platform for raising funds for local charities while fulfilling our mission of providing these talented players with the opportunity to compete and pursue their dream of moving on to the LPGA.”
The Road to the LPGA Tour
The mission of the Duramed FUTURES Tour is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour.
The Duramed FUTURES Tour is known as “the Road to the LPGA” and since 1999, it has been designated as the LPGA’s developmental tour. The LPGA acquired the Duramed FUTURES Tour in July 2007. LPGA achievements include:
* More than 500 Duramed FUTURES Tour alumnae have gone on to earn LPGA membership.
* Through 2008, Duramed FUTURES Tour alums own a total of 345 LPGA victories and 37 major championships.
* Tour alums won 17 of 34 LPGA tournaments and two of the four major championships in 2008.
* Nine alums won 17 LPGA titles in 2008, including seven by alumna Lorena Ochoa, who was the 2002 Player of the Year on the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
* Twenty-one Duramed FUTURES Tour members earned 2009 LPGA Tour status at the LPGA’s Final Qualifying Tournament in December 2008.
The Duramed FUTURES Tour annually awards LPGA membership to its top players on each official season money list. (Three LPGA cards were awarded from 1999-2002; five were awarded from 2003-2007; and 10 were awarded, starting in 2008). A total of 47 players have automatically “graduated” since 1999. Some alumni include:
Vicky Hurst (2008); Allison Fouch (2007); Song-Hee Kim, In-Bee Park and Kristy McPherson (2006); Seon-Hwa Lee and Nicole Castrale (2005); Jimin Kang and Lindsey Wright (2004); Stacy Prammanasudh and Birdie Kim (2003); Lorena Ochoa and Christina Kim (2002); and Grace Park (1999).
The Duramed FUTURES Tour and Golf Fitness Magazine announced earlier this year that Golf Fitness would be Tour’s “Preferred Fitness Magazine.”