The Symetra Tour is the development vehicle for professional women golfers seeking admittance to the elite, professional women’s golf tour, the LPGA Tour. The Symetra Tour is the most established women’s developmental tour in the world, entering 39 years of structured competition in 2019.
While the LPGA is the pre-eminent women’s professional golfing association in the world, there are at least four other such associations, including: the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (“JLPGA”), the Ladies European Tour (“LET”), the Australian Ladies Professional Golf (“ALPG”) and the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (“KLPGA”). While each of these other tours administers a professional women’s golfing tournament schedule, none have the stature, participation, attendance or level of competition as does the LPGA Tour. Only the LET and Symetra Tour are truly international tours as the JLPGA only allows women of Japan to compete and the KLPGA only allows a certain percentage of non-Korean women to compete. Notably, the Symetra Tour has more players advance to the LPGA Tour than all the other women professional tours.
The presence of foreign born players on the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour enhances the level of competition enjoyed by members of these tours and contributes to the society through the interaction between American-born and international-born players. Both the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour and their fans benefit from the LPGA and Symetra Tours’ ability to attract the very best international female golfers.
Beyond competitive college golf, there are a number of professional developmental, mini-tours, or satellite tours, that serve as training grounds for women hoping to compete on the LPGA Tour. One such example is the Symetra Tour, the official developmental tour of the LPGA. Founded in 1981, the Symetra Tour is called “The Road to the LPGA” and is the official developmental tour of the LPGA. The Symetra Tour was acquired by the LPGA in 2007 and is now based in the LPGA’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla. The 2019 Symetra Tour schedule runs from March through September and has more than 488 players competing from around the world. The 2019 schedule includes more than 20 tournaments in 15 states and the tournament purse size will surpass the $3 million threshold for the fourth straight year.
The Symetra Tour’s relationship with the LPGA provides its players with direct avenues to qualify for the LPGA Tour. The Symetra Tour is one of the most elite women’s developmental golf tours in the world and occupies a niche immediately below the LPGA Tour. Of the estimated 4,000 professional women golfers in the world, 488 have the ability and opportunity to seek entry to the Symetra Tour. As evidence of the quality of international play on the Symetra Tour, the Number 1 LPGA golfer in the world in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, Lorena Ochoa, was the FUTURES Tour (predecessor to Symetra Tour) Player of the Year in 2002. More than 600 Symetra Tour alumnae have earned LPGA Tour membership. Through 2018, Symetra Tour alumnae won a total of 433 LPGA Tour titles, including 40 major championships. The Symetra Tour’s membership includes 488 top female professional golfers representing 46 different countries. The international membership reflects the growth of golf on a global scale and specifically, the Symetra Tour’s ability to attract an influx of the best players from around the world with prestigious venues, a professional culture, and higher purses.
Since 2002, four Symetra Tour alumnae have won the LPGA Tour’s top rookie honors. In 2016, nine of the top 25 and 55 of the top 100 on the LPGA Tour Money List had ties to the Symetra Tour. In 2016, at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, 96 of the 156 women in the field had ties to the Symetra Tour. Six of the 12 members of the 2011 Solheim Cup Team were alumnae of the Symetra Tour. Symetra Tour players always comprise a large percentage of the tournament field at the LPGA’s Final Qualifying Tournament each year. The Symetra Tour players also comprise a large percentage of the field in LPGA Tour events. Over the past twelve years, four of the LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award winners, played the previous year on the Symetra Tour.
Additionally, Symetra Tour players move on to compete at the highest level within the LPGA Tour. Of the 12 members of BOTH the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Solheim Cup teams, six players were Symetra Tour alums on each of the teams. Laura Davies was the Tour’s only alum on the European Team at both the 2005 and 2007 Solheim Cups. Six of the 12 members of the 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup Team were alumnae of the Symetra Tour (Ryann O’Toole, Vicky Hurst, Christie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim) as well as team captain, Rosie Jones. Former Symetra Tour member Laura Davies was selected to Europe’s squad which was captained by fellow alum Allison Nichols.
Clearly, the Symetra Tour is an international developmental tour that equals or exceeds other tours around the world. It is the pathway to the LPGA Tour as evidenced by the success of its players and by the mere fact that so many international players come to the U.S. to compete on the Symetra Tour in hopes of qualifying for the LPGA Tour. In summary, it is the number one women’s golf developmental tour in the world.
*Steven M. Ladik is past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and represents numerous professional golfers on the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR as well as athletes across the broad spectrum of sports. He also serves as the outside Immigration Counsel to the National Football League. He is a Partner at Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC. www.realclearcounsel.com