Gabriela Ruffels sets new 36-hole Epson Tour scoring record at Garden City Charity Classic

Ruffels’ mark of 18 under is three shots better than any other golfer in Epson Tour history after the first two rounds.

No golfer in Epson Tour history has started a tournament better through 36 holes than Gabriela Ruffels.

The 23-year-old Australian sits at 18-under 126 after the second round of the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes in Garden City, Kansas. Ruffels’ mark of 18 under is three shots better than any other golfer in Epson Tour history after the first two rounds, and it’s the lowest gross score by one shot.

Five golfers in Epson Tour history have shot 15 under after 36 holes, the latest being Daniela Iacobelli in the 2021 Symetra Tour Championship at LPGA International. Sue Ginter-Brooker in 2002 shot 127 after two rounds at the 2002 Hewlett Packard Garden State Futures Summer Classic at Knob Hill Golf Club in Manalapan, New Jersey.

With the final round coming Sunday, Ruffels has a chance to top the 54-hole scoring record of 19 under, which Fernanda Lira accomplished at the 2021 FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship at Battle Creek Country Club in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Ruffels shot 10-under 62 in the opening round, and she followed that up with an 8-under 64 on Saturday. Her second round even included a bogey, but she also had seven birdies and an eagle.

This is Ruffels’ sixth Epson Tour start this season, which includes a victory at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic.

After the early wave in Kansas, Ruffels held a 10-shot lead over a bevy of chasers sitting at 8 under.

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

Meet the women who chase their tour dreams pulling RV trailers, including an LPGA rookie who debuts at this week’s Drive On

“I would still be driving anyway, so I might as well tow a trailer.”

If Rob Rennell has one regret, it’s that he didn’t buy a fifth wheel sooner. Rennell estimates that traveling the junior golf circuit by trailer with daughter Riley would’ve cut the family’s expenses in half. Rob and Riley have been practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the past three months while their 42-foot trailer is parked at Eagle View RV Resort at Fort McDowell.

“It’s almost like an apartment,” said Riley of the setup, which includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms. RV life allows Riley to bring her dog Alex and kitten Frankie on tour.

The Rennells also have a 40-acre farm in Columbia, Tennessee, which supplies hay for the cattle ranches that surround. Kendra Rennell, who was back home overseeing roof repairs at the farm, recently made her way out west to watch Riley make her LPGA debut this week at the Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

While Jordan Spieth made some headlines earlier this year talking about his new rig, the women who haul trailers around the country aren’t having quite the same experience as the luxury motor homes that Jason Day, John Daly, Jimmy Walker and others have used for years.

“We’re the trailer girls,” said Dorsey Addicks, who lived 280 days in her Airstream the first year she bought it. Addicks’s father, Rich, a retired photojournalist, has an Airstream, too.

Epson Tour player Dorsey Addicks poses in her Airstream travel trailer. (photo courtesy of Rich Addicks)

After the pandemic hit, the family decided to look into seeing if it made sense financially for Dorsey, who now hails from Big Sky, Montana, to get her own home on wheels. She lives in her 20-foot Airstream when she’s wintering in Georgia and on the east coast of the Epson Tour. When on the west coast, they use dad’s trailer.

“I would still be driving anyway,” said Addicks of tour life, “so I might as well tow a trailer.”

Addicks tows her Airstream with a Chevy Silverado 1500 and documents her travels on the Instagram account, @dagolfstream. A couple of season ago, she met a man in an RV park who walked his goats every night.

Addicks’ good friend Lindsey McCurdy also pulls a 19-foot trailer on the Epson Tour. She enjoys the freedom of being able to cook what she wants. McCurdy’s RV has a full-size bed and a twin bunk. That McCurdy managed to navigate life on the road while unknowingly battling ulcerative colitis is all the more impressive to Addicks, who sometimes parked next to McCurdy for the week.

“In our little off time, we would talk RVs,” said Riley of the trailer crew. “How is this going for you? Are you still working on fixing that window? How’s the wheel holding up? I know you had a flat a week ago.”

Rob said RVs are often a series of little things going wrong, but worth the effort.

As Addicks pulled out of Arizona after last week’s Epson Tour event in Mesa, Rennell geared up for the start of an LPGA west coast stretch on wheels.

Dorsey Addicks works out next to her Airstream while competing on the Epson Tour. (photo courtesy Rich Addicks)

The Rennells pull their trailer with a Dodge Ram 3500 and figure they’ve put close to 100,000 miles on it the past couple years on the Epson Tour. Their longest ride stretched from Indiana to Idaho, with a week to get there and a week off on the back end. Along the way they saw Mount Rushmore and Bighorn National Forest, back when diesel was more affordable.

“It was a hard pull,” said Riley, “but it was amazing.”

The Rennells are a close-knit bunch, which is basically mandatory when living in close proximity. As Rob said, there are no secrets.

Riley Rennell hits balls near the upper barn on the family’s 40-acre farm. (courtesy photo)

Riley had a club in her hand the day she was born. Rob, a PGA teaching professional, was part-owner of a nine-hole lighted golf course and driving range, and he liked to carry Riley around in a backpack while he gave lessons.

Golf wasn’t Riley’s only interest. She became a fourth-degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and an orange belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She also rode a beloved horse named Summer in local competitions. Along the way, Riley rose through the ranks of junior golf, eventually giving a verbal commitment to the University of Georgia before deciding to forgo college for the professional ranks.

When Riley was 4 years old, the nine-hole course and range were sold and Rob took all that golf equipment to the 40-acre farm the family had purchased. Rob would give lessons in the barn and watch students hit the more than 30,000 range balls they’d inherited into a field. In the summer, they’d hit balls until it was time to now and then have a pick-a-thon.

With the family now on the road living out 24-year-old Riley’s dreams, they don’t use the farm range as much anymore, but Rob still pays a high school kid in the area to keep it bush-hogged.

The family made a pledge this year that they’d take time to enjoy the journey during this LPGA rookie year.

Golf is Riley’s job, but she keeps her mind occupied with plenty of road hobbies. She enjoys painting with watercolors and acrylics and is teaching herself to read and speak Japanese.

There are times in the RV when there’s no TV and the wifi is less than spotty.

One of her favorite places to park last year on the Epson Tour was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they paid $20 to sleep 20 yards from the sound of crashing waves.

Everything in Riley’s life right now feels like an adventure.

“I love this game because it’s imperfect,” she said.

“The creativity – it’s very similar, I think, to painting and to life.  It’s never going to be the same every day. I think that’s really beautiful and cool.”

[lawrence-auto-related count=3 category=1373]

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01f5k5vfbhv59szck1 image=]

Gabi Ruffels wins Epson Tour event in Arizona for her first professional victory

Five months ago, Ruffels missed the deadline for LPGA Q Series. Now, she has her first pro victory.

Four months ago, Gabi Ruffels missed the deadline to register for LPGA Q-Series.

On Sunday, the former USC standout and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion took a big step towards securing her LPGA card after earning her first professional victory.

Ruffels led by two shots after 54 holes at the Epson Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona. During Sunday’s final round, back-to-back birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 stretched that lead to five.

She would have four birdies in all during a bogey-free final round to go 68-67-67-68 for the week to win by two shots over Kathleen Scavo, who eagled the last to get to 16 under.

“It feels so good,” Ruffels said. “I’ve wanted this all week, especially after the first round when I kind of got into the tournament. I just had to stay patient all day, and I can finally relax knowing that I won. It’s a really cool feeling.”

After that Q-Series goof, Ruffels finished eighth at LET Q-School. She also has full status on the Epson Tour in 2023. The top-10 finishers on the Epson Tour will earn their LPGA cards for 2024.

The Carlisle event is one of two Epson tournaments in 2023 with a total purse of $335,000, the most in tour history. Ruffels’ first-place share was $50,250. Her career earnings heading into the event were $74,858.

The LPGA and its developmental tour are going back-to-back in Arizona this week and next. Maude-Aimee LeBlanc and Karen Chung are two of the 13 who made the cut at the Epson event who will next tee it up on the LPGA later this week.

Practice rounds begin Monday 21 miles away at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club for the LPGA Drive On Championship, the first LPGA stop in Arizona since 2019 and the first at Superstition since the 2008 Safeway International.

[lawrence-auto-related count=3 category=1373]

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

13 players who made cut at Epson Tour event in Arizona are also in LPGA Drive On field just 21 miles away

It’s a busy two weeks in Arizona for the LPGA and its developmental tour.

MESA, Ariz. — It’s a busy two weeks in Arizona for the LPGA and its developmental tour.

The Epson Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic, which runs through Sunday, is being held for a third time at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa.

Next week, the LPGA returns to the Grand Canyon State for the first time since 2019 when the Bank of Hope Founders Cup was played in Phoenix. Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club is hosting the LPGA Drive On Championship from March 23-26. The club also hosted the LPGA from 2004-08 for the Safeway International.

It makes for a pretty great situation for up-and-coming golfers to take advantage of back-to-back playing opportunities.

Despite an up-and-down week at the Carlisle, LPGA member Bailey Tardy is trying to make the most of consecutive weeks at golf courses just 21 miles apart. She said her first-round 79 on Thursday was due in part to key piece of equipment she forgot to pack.

“I didn’t have golf shoes the first day so I think that was my issue,” she said before showing off her new shoes. “Fifty dollars. PGA Superstore. Not the same ones, but I like them better.”

Tardy followed her 79 with a 64 to make the cut Friday.

Like Tardy, Canada’s Maude-Aimee LeBlanc will make her first 2023 LPGA start at the Drive On. And like Tardy, LeBlanc lives back east, so the Epson event is a great chance to prep.

“We haven’t played in Arizona in a while and I practice in Florida so it’s very different, the grass, the air. The ball goes a lot farther here,” she said, noting that she’s also breaking in a new caddie this week in Mesa.

There were 16 players who entered the Epson event also in the upcoming LPGA field, with Tardy among the 13 advancing to the weekend. Two of those advancing – Grace Kim and Celine Borge – are LPGA members who were 2022 Epson Tour graduates. Two others – Jaravee Boonchant and Karen Chung – are dual members, having finished between No. 21 and 45 in last year’s Q Series.

Longbow Golf Club
The leaderboard at Longbow Golf Club for the 2023 Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

The other nine golfers who made the cut at Longbow are LPGA members: Lauren Stephenson, Lauren Coughlin, Pernilla Lindberg, Grace Kim, Amanda Doherty, Caroline Inglis, Valery Plata, Samantha Wagner along with Tardy and Leblanc.

For new Epson Tour chief business and operations officer Jody Brothers, his focus is on the first of the two events in Arizona but knows having the LPGA here next week helps on preparation and logistics for many players.

“They’re pros at traveling, but anytime you can settle in and get comfortable, whether it’s time-zone adjustment or green speeds or types of grass, I think that serves them really, really well,” he said.

Tardy missed out on her LPGA card for the 2021 season by a mere $343. Now that she has status, she’s not taking anything for granted.

“It’s just as hard to stay on the LPGA as it is to get your card.”

She’s also learned that a first-round 79 doesn’t have to ruin your week.

“Honestly, after the first round and then [bouncing back in] the second round is just never give up on yourself,” she said. “Just don’t harp on the bad things and focus on what you’ve done and rely on that to prepare yourself for the next day.”

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

New Epson Tour leader Jody Brothers left the PGA Tour hoping to create meaningful change for those stretching every dollar

“I want to identify what is the right thing to have on our tour week in and week out.”

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. ­— Jody Brothers saw a line forming outside the equipment trailer at the Epson Tour’s season-opening event in Winter Haven, Florida, and hopped inside to lend a hand. The tour’s new Chief Business and Operations Officer, a self-described golf nerd, started working at golf courses before he could legally drive and figured stripping grips would not only make life easier for everyone involved, but also give him insight into what’s best on a broader scale. An equipment trailer is only onsite a handful of times each season on the LPGA’s official qualifying tour.

“I want to identify what is the right thing to have on our tour week in and week out,” said Brothers. “Is it a trailer like that I need to find sponsors for and fund so they can be out here 22 weeks a year? Or is there an alternate opportunity to partner with a Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore or somebody with multiple locations throughout the country where our athletes would have access?”

Brothers carried around a notebook last week at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, jotting down ideas and concerns as he met players for the first time. Brothers even worked as a first-tee starter, an idea/dare that came from the Player Advisory Group. That too, came naturally.

“He’s hands-on,” said veteran player and three-time Epson Tour winner Kim Kaufman. “Super easy to talk to.”

Kaufman is a member of the PAG along with four-time Epson Tour winner Daniela Iacobelli, who said she could see the enthusiasm in Brothers’ eyes when they had their first PAG Zoom call.

Brothers, 53, came to the Epson Tour from the PGA Tour, where he spent nearly 16 years, most recently serving as Vice President of Business Development.

Why the move to women’s golf? Brothers said if he interviewed with 10 people at the LPGA, at least nine of them asked that question first.

“For me, it’s not about, you know, Mollie’s job or any other job at the LPGA,” said Brothers. “This is the job I wanted, and for me, it’s legacy.”

Brothers was referring, of course, to LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. In his role with the Epson Tour, Brothers serves on the LPGA Executive Leadership Team.

Brothers has a sister who played college golf and a wife that plays. Being at a place where he felt he could really make a difference was important to Brothers for this next chapter of life. He comes to the Epson Tour with a contact list – both in sponsorships and club management – that should lead to results.

“I’ll say also when I was at the PGA Tour in sponsorship the last six years,” said Brothers, “a lot of brands were saying I want to invest in professional golf. They started with the men’s side, but said I need to do something on the women’s side. That was really encouraging. It was that that got me thinking about a career with the LPGA.”

Brothers has big goals for increasing purses on the Epson tour, which this season boasts a record-setting total prize fund of $4.41 million and an average purse size of $210,000. That’s up from $1.6 million a decade ago.

Brothers, who plans to be onsite at every event this season, said it’s too soon to share that prize fund goal publicly, but that it’s “significantly” higher than what the women play for today.

“I think the number of events that we host is probably appropriate to identify the top 10 players from this tour,” he said. “But they need to play for more money. That’s my mission.”

For perspective, when the Korn Ferry Tour kicks off later this month, the purse for the first event will be $1 million. The KFT, of course is one step below the PGA Tour, which is the same for Epson in relation to the LPGA.

The purse at the Florida’s Natural Classic was $200,000.

Brothers, formerly the Senior Director of Tournament Business Affairs on the Korn Ferry Tour, also has designs on decreasing what it costs to compete each week, whether that’s in hotel costs, entry fees or insurance. Before the start of the season, the tour announced Epson would cover yardage books each week and would cover entry fees for Q-Series for those who finish Nos. 11-35 on the Official Money List. (The top 10 players earn LPGA cards.) Changes to the Rules of Golf for 2023 require that players buy new yardage books that are approved by the Epson Tour Rules Committee.

Former Alabama player Kenzie Wright noted on Twitter in January she spent $16,826 on entry fees and yardage books alone in 2022. Last year, Epson helped cut the cost of entry fees each week from $500 to $450. Brothers wants to bring enough partners on board to drop entry fees to $250.

“Those are the little things we can do as administrators of this tour to make it easier,” said Brothers. “I want to make sure they’re out here long enough to fulfill that dream.”

Brothers understands from firsthand experience the grind of trying to make it to the big-time. After playing college golf at Cal State Chico, Brothers played professionally on the Dakotas Tour in the early 90s. When two guys in his group shot 28 and 29 on the back nine of a tournament, Brothers realized a playing career might not be the right path for him.

He played long enough, however, to appreciate how much the little things ­–like free yardage books – really do add up. Brothers remembers how grateful he was to the owner of a local A&W who wrote “free” on the back of his business card after a pro-am. Brothers could show that card the rest of the week at the A&W and get whatever he wanted on the house.

“He’s gone through the process of maybe not having enough money to afford a good meal,” said Iacobelli. “Or a meal.”

Now, as leader of the Epson Tour, Brothers is ready for a new kind of grind.

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

Here are 15 of the most successful LPGA players to graduate from the Epson Tour since 1999, including two Hall of Famers

The Epson Tour is set to begin its 2023 season this week.

As the Epson Tour sets to begin its 2023 season this week in Winter Haven, Florida, it’s a good time to look back on some the great champions who have earned their LPGA cards through the official qualifying tour.

Just last Sunday, Epson Tour alumna Lilia Vu broke through with her first victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand. The former UCLA standout won three times in 2021 to earn her LPGA card.

A total of 172 players have graduated from the Epson Tour since 1999. From 1999 to 2002, a total of three cards were handed out each season. That jumped to five in 2003 and beginning in 2008, that number increased to 10, which is where it currently stands.

Here are 15 players who graduated from the Epson Tour and found success on some of the biggest stages in golf:

Grateful Lindsey McCurdy battles back from debilitating bowel disease to begin sixth season on Epson Tour

Lindsey was given a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a disease of the large intestine. There is no known cure.

When Lindsey McCurdy first got sick, she joked that she had to jot down the locations of all the bathrooms in her yardage book. Only this was no laughing matter.

When her mom, Amy, showed up to caddie in Idaho at the 2021 Circling Raven Championship, she’d often find herself standing on tee boxes alone as Lindsey raced across the course to the nearest port-a-potty.

“It was a nightmare for me,” said Amy, “and I can only imagine what she was dealing with.”

Lindsey typically felt the worst at night and in the morning. She barely slept. Amy, who stayed with her in the family’s 19-foot travel trailer, said it felt like Lindsey got up every 15 minutes. Amy implored her daughter to go home and see a doctor. She had no idea things had gotten so bad.

“I was so close to top 80, or full status,” Lindsey explained, “and that was the No. 1 thing on my mind.”

In the end, mom got her wish, and Lindsey headed home to Texas for a barrage of medical tests. For four weeks she stayed in bed, scared to get too far from a bathroom. Lindsey had a colonoscopy, and Amy grew terrified looking at the photos of her inflamed colon.

“I tried to stay calm and be rational,” said Amy, who felt like she was watching her daughter’s dreams crumble before their eyes.

“Not be dramatic,” added Lindsey, who grew up in the Austin suburb of Kyle, Texas. “I was really not sure if I could live a normal life again.”

In time, Lindsey was given a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease of the large intestine in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers. There is no known cure.

“When she informed us of her diagnosis, my heart broke for her,” said good friend Dorsey Addicks. “To be 26 years old and your life is kind of forever changed.”

As she tried different medications, Lindsey set a goal of coming back for the 2021 Epson Tour Championship. She was hitting it 20 years shorter, but thought this might be the last time she’d get to play in a professional event with friends.

Seeing their daughter compete that week in Daytona Beach, Florida, felt like the Super Bowl for this Texas family.

“We were Patrick Mahomes’ parents,” joked Amy.

Lindsey McCurdy (right) plays a practice round at the 2021 Epson Tour Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, with friends Dorsey Addicks (center) and Kristin Coleman (left). This was McCurdy’s first tournament back after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. (Photo courtesy of Rich Addicks)

During the offseason, Lindsey started on a steroid but began feeling really sick again around Christmas. Then in March, right before the 2022 season began, she started an infusion treatment that lasts three hours and is needed every eight weeks. She immediately felt relief.

Each infusion costs roughly $7,000, and between insurance and a government program Lindsey found that covers up to $20,000 a year, she’s set for now.

“I’ve felt great ever since,” said Lindsey, who set out in 2022 trying to regain the ground she’d lost.

While it was a tremendous relief to return to the game that she loves, the former SMU student felt behind after almost no off-season training.

After both Addicks and Lindsey missed the cut in French Lick, Indiana, last summer, the two friends knew they’d have to go back to the first stage of LPGA Q-School. It was a gut-punch, however, that quickly became a silver lining.

“I played a practice round with her,” said Addicks of their time at Mission Hills, “and she was striping the ball. It was the best I’d seen her hit it all year. It was a page-turner for her.”

Addicks believed her friend put so much pressure on herself to get exempt out of first stage, that after it came and went, she was able to dig a little deeper. Both players left Rancho Mirage, California, prepared to grind out the rest of the season.

Lindsey went on to tie for 14th in Idaho and the following week, tied for 21st in Oregon. By the time she got to the Tour Championship, Lindsey needed one more strong finish to jump inside the top 100 and secure strong status for 2023.

She tied for 41st that week, jumping up to 99th on the money list. An hour later, she got word that she’d won the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award, presented to an Epson Tour player who best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance, love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer.

“It was a good day,” said a grateful Lindsey.

It’s estimated that 1 million people in the U.S. are living with ulcerative colitis, though Addicks notes that it’s not often talked about among athletes because it can be career-ending.

Last December, South Korea’s Youngin Chun, 22, posted on Instagram that her LPGA career had come to an abrupt end after being diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis.

“It was definitely the most unexpected decision I had to make in my life,” wrote Chun, “but at the same time, it was the right decision, knowing that I truly gave it my all on course every single season, tournament and round.”

Lindsey saw Chun’s post and reached out.

As she looks toward the 2023 Epson Tour season, which begins next week in Winter Haven, Florida, Lindsey knows that a flareup could happen at any time without warning.

The concept of staying in the present and staying positive has taken on new meaning these days. Addicks says the game she saw from Lindsey at the end of last season was like the Lindsey of old.

“She’s feisty,” said Addicks, “so look out.”

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

A dozen LPGA rookies to watch in 2023, including a couple of former American prodigies, a Division II college star and a 10-time winner from Japan

Keep an eye on these 12 rookies in 2023.

It’s not often that an LPGA rookie rises to No. 1 in the world, but Atthaya Thitikul proved to be a special player last season. Will anyone be able to make such a strong showing in 2023?

This year’s rookie class is once again highly global. In fact, an American hasn’t won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award since Paula Creamer in 2005.

There are, however, a couple of American hotshots who made headlines before they graduated from elementary school in the 2023 rookie class. Could Lucy Li or Alexa Pano break that drought?

Here are a dozen LPGA rookies to keep an eye on in 2023:

LPGA hires former PGA Tour VP Jody Brothers to lead Epson Tour

Brothers most recently served as vice president of business development at the PGA Tour.

The LPGA has announced Jody Brothers as its new chief business and operations officer for the Epson Tour. Brothers has worked for the PGA Tour since 2007 and takes over for Mike Nichols, who left the Epson Tour last summer.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jody Brothers to the LPGA Executive Leadership Team as our Epson Tour Chief Business and Operations Officer,” said LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “Jody’s extensive experience at every level of the golf industry coupled with his true passion for the professional developmental tours make him the ideal leader for continued growth of the Epson Tour.

“In this newly defined role, Jody will oversee all aspects of the Tour, inside and outside the ropes. We are confident that under Jody’s leadership, we will maximize value for Seiko Epson Corporation and our committed partners and tournaments while offering our players with the best opportunity to reach their peak potential and realize their dream of playing on the LPGA Tour.”

Last Thursday, the Epson Tour released its 2023 schedule, which includes 22 tournaments and a total record prize fund of $4.9 million.

Courtesy Epson Tour

Brothers most recently served as vice president of business development at the PGA Tour, leading his team in identifying, pitching and negotiating multi-year title sponsorships and official marketing partnerships, navigating elements including league rights, television and digital media, player sponsorships and investment in local tournament assets such as hospitality and on-site branding.

“After 16 years with the PGA Tour, I am very excited to join the LPGA team and spend the next part of my career working on the women’s side of the game,” said Brothers. “I believe deeply in the growth of the game of golf, particularly the promotion of women in our sport and the quest for equality amongst professional athletes. The Epson Tour provides opportunities for talented athletes from across the globe to compete and improve as they seek their ultimate dream of playing on the LPGA Tour and I can’t describe how excited I am for the opportunity to lead this Tour.”

Brothers played college golf at California State University, Chico and graduated with a degree in marketing. He played professionally on the Dakotas Tour, the Pepsi Tour and the Golden State Tour before working as a club pro at Butte Creek Country Club, Mount Shasta Resort and Canyon Oaks Country Club in Northern California.

Brothers joined the PGA Tour in 2007 as the director of business development at TPC San Antonio, later becoming general manager of TPC Stonebrae and TPC Harding Park, tournament director of The Stonebrae Classic, executive director of The First Tee campaign for 10 Million Young People, senior director of tournament business affairs on the Korn Ferry Tour and vice president within the Office of the Commissioner.

[mm-video type=playlist id=01es6rjnsp3c84zkm6 player_id=01evcfxp4q8949fs1e image=]

Epson Tour announces another record-breaking season in 2023 with $4.9 million in prize money

The 2023 season will be another record-breaker for the Epson Tour.

The 2023 season will be another record-breaker for the Epson Tour. In 2013, players competed for $1.6 million in purses across 15 events. This season, they’ll play for $4.915 million in 22 tournaments, the tour announced on Thursday.

Two events will boast the largest prize fund in Epson Tour history as both the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic and the French Lick Charity Classic moved to $335,000. That’s more than double what the highest purse was a decade ago.

“I think our best sales people are our existing events,” said Tim Kramer, vice president of tournament business affairs for the Epson Tour, on what has kept momentum flowing in recent years.

Longstanding events on the tour’s schedule include the Twin Bridges Championship (39 years), the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic (14 years), the Island Resort Championship (12 years), the Four Winds Invitational (12 years) and the IOA Championship  (11 years).

This year, the IOA Golf Classic and the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship celebrate 10 years on the Epson Tour schedule.

“We are so thrilled to be celebrating our 10th year of the IOA Classic,” said IOA Golf Classic Tournament Director John Ritenour in a release. “This has been one of the best events that we do to entertain our customers and our insurance company partners. Playing with these young ladies is the most fun that any of our guests have playing golf. Every year our invited guests ask if they can play in it the following year.”

The average purse size this season will be $223,000, up from $210,000 in 2022. The tour graduates the top 10 players on the money list each season to the LPGA.

It’s been a year of transition for the Epson Tour, with more change on the way.

Mike Nichols, who joined the LPGA staff in 2006 and was named chief business officer of what was then known as the Symetra Tour in July 2012, left the LPGA last summer. It was Nichols who transformed the LPGA’s official qualifying tour in substantial ways over the course of a decade before leaving to become the Chief of Sponsorship Strategy and Activation for Group 1001.

The LPGA is expected to announce his replacement Monday, Jan. 9.

2022 Epson Tour Championship
Xiaowen Yin, Gabriella Then, Yan Liu, Kiira Riihijarvi, Linnea Strom, Gina Kim, Celine Borge, Grace Kim and Hyo Joon Jang celebrate receiving their LPGA cards following the 2022 Epson Tour Championship at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The tour will welcome three new stops in 2023.

The Hartford HealthCare Women’s Championship will be held July 13-16 at Great River Golf Club in Milford, Connecticut.  There will also be a second stop added in Utah with the addition of the Black Desert Resort Championship in September, where players will compete for $300,000, the second-largest purse of the season.

The tour will also return to North Carolina in 2023, with more details coming at a later date.

Date Tournament Course Location Purse
Feb. 27-March 5 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic Country Club of Winter Haven Winter Haven, Florida $200,000
March 13-19 Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic Longbow Golf Club Mesa, Arizona $335,000
March 20-26 IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon Beaumont, California $200,000
March 27-April 2 Casino Del Sol Golf Classic Sewailo Golf Club Tucson, Arizona $200,000
April 24-30* Copper Rock Championship presented by Copper Rock Golf Course Hurricane, Utah $220,000
May 1-7 Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes Buffalo Dunes Golf Club Garden City, Kansas $200,000
May 15-21 IOA Golf Classic presented by LPT Realty Alaqua Country Club Longwood, Florida $200,000
May 22-28 Inova Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship El Campeon Golf Course Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida $200,000
May 29-June 4 TBA TBA TBA, North Carolina $200,000
June 5-11 FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship Battle Creek Country Club Battle Creek, Michigan $200,000
June 19-25 Island Resort Championship Sweetgrass Golf Club Harris, Michigan $225,000
July 10-16 Hartford HealthCare Women’s Championship Great River Golf Club Milford, Connecticut $200,000
July 17-23 Twin Bridges Championship Pinehaven Country Club Guilderland, New York $200,000
July 31-Aug. 6 French Lick Charity Classic The Pete Dye Golf Course at French Lick French Lick, Indiana $335,000
Aug. 7-13* Four Winds Invitational South Bend Country Club South Bend, Indiana $200,000
Aug. 14-20 Wildhorse Ladies Golf Classic Wildhorse Golf Course Pendleton, Oregon $200,000
Aug. 21-27 Circling Raven Championship Circling Raven Golf Club Worley, Idaho $225,000
Sept. 4-9* Black Desert Resort Championship TBA Salt Lake City, Utah $300,000
Sept. 11-17 Guardian Championship RTJ Golf Trail at Capitol Hill Golf Club Prattville, Alabama $200,000
Sept. 18-24 Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout Mystic Creek Golf Club El Dorado, Arkansas $225,000
Sept. 25-Oct. 1 Tuscaloosa Classic Ol’ Colony Golf Course Tuscaloosa, Alabama $200,000
Oct. 2-8 Epson Tour Championship LPGA International – Jones Course Daytona Beach, Florida $250,000

[listicle id=778301107]