Mark Berman, the owner and operator of the East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour, joined us again for Episode 37 of On The Green Podcast. You may remember Mark from a previous episode in 2021 when we discussed what was then a new developmental tour event for female golfers, the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship. Following the championship’s massive success in October of last year, Mark was inspired to shart his own women’s developmental tour to give women more opportunities to play golf professionally and make it to the LPGA Tour.
Why Start a Women’s Tour?
It was never really on Mark’s radar to start a tour. However, during a short rain delay at the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, the idea was brought up to him by a few of the players. As fate would have it, a women’s tour owner in Florida was looking to retire, so it turned out to be perfect timing. Just a few months later, Mark became the tour owner in mid-December. Mark’s team worked tirelessly to have the first event happen in January—just a few short months later—to ensure these players had more opportunities to work on their games.
At the time of our conversation, the East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour had been active for just 130 days and had already hosted seven tournaments. Those tournaments have since accounted for jobs for over 160 young women and over $150,000 in earnings. In addition, there have been several first-time winners who have received first-place checks of $10,000. When asked about the success of the tournaments so far, Mark says, “I don’t think it’s overstating it to say we’re changing a few lives out here. We’re creating jobs for young women to pursue their careers and move their way toward the LPGA.”
As I discussed in a past blog, “The Road to an LPGA Tour Card is Really Hard!,” it can be challenging for women to get the opportunity to play professionally due to the lack of developmental tours available. Mark explains, “There are 30 developmental tours in the men’s game, and there are only two others for women, with one in Arizona and one in Texas.” In addition, due to the regionality of the developmental tours available, it’s often economically impossible for golfers on the east coast to compete. As a result, Mark says, “It’s not always the best players that rise to the top but those who can afford to be out there. We’re trying to change that by creating more opportunities here on the east coast.”
The ECWPG Tour’s official tour begins on May 11 at the historic Sun ‘N Lake Golf Course in Sebring, Florida. WIth three U.S. Open Qualifiers taking place around the same area and time, Mark and his team tactfully chose the first event’s location to make scheduling and traveling more accessible for the players. For the same reason, the whole summer season is broken up into pods—one in Florida, one in New England, and one in Georgia. This year, the ECWPG has co-branded with the Georgia State Women’s Open with the PGA section to combine the two fields and make it an even bigger event, resulting in a significant purse.
Another advantage of the ECWPG Tour is its Q-School Prep Series. By allowing the golfers to play the courses a week before they compete in Q-School, they can gain confidence on the courses before the official qualifying school.
Currently, the biggest obstacle the ECWPG Tour faces is sponsorship. Sponsors would help lessen the operational costs, ultimately leading to higher purses for the winners. I encourage anyone who believes in the ECWPG Tour’s vision and mission of creating opportunities and seats at the table for more female golfers to get involved and consider becoming a sponsor. If you’re interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Mark at 904-838-4962 or visit ECWPGT.com. On the ECWPGT website, you can also find the tour’s official schedule and other ways to help support the tour’s mission.
To hear more of my conversation with Mark, tune into Episode 37 of On The Green Podcast! The podcast is available on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and all of your favorite streaming platforms. Be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date with my monthly episodes!