The official qualifying tour of the LPGA will now be named the Epson Tour, after a five-year agreement between the LPGA Tour and Epson America Inc. was announced on Wednesday.
Formerly known as the Symetra Tour, the circuit enters its 42nd year and will raise entry prize money to $200,000 (nearly doubling it from previous years), in addition to establishing a Epson Tour Ambassador Program and lowering tournament-entry fees.
"From the get-go, Epson said, 'If we're going to be involved, we want to build this partnership out from the players. What we want you to do is bring us three big ideas that would make a difference in the lives of players,'" Mike Nichols, chief business officer of the LPGA Qualifying Tours, said to ESPN. "It's really cool to have a partner who's really putting their money where their mouth is and trying to make a difference in the lives of these women who are chasing their LPGA Tour dreams."
The Epson Tour Ambassador Program will award $10,000 to the top 10 players on the money list, who automatically qualify for next year's LPGA Tour. The money will help offset the cost of being a new tour member.
"It's huge to be able to start the season with a little bit more money in my pocket and not be playing with my own money," said Fatima Fernandez Cano, an Epson Tour graduate in 2020 and 2021. "It's hard when you're just starting and you don't have a lot of sponsorships yet and people don't know your name."
The new deal will initially lower entry fees by 10% per tournament for each player, which could be as much as $1,000 per individual over the course of the year. Epson is also challenging at least four other companies to work together to cut player-entry fees in half from $500 to $250.
"It's expensive to compete on the qualifying tour," Keith Kratzberg, CEO, Epson America Inc., said. "We are seeing growth and interest in the game, better and better levels of play and competition and part of what needs to go along with that is bigger rewards and prize money."
The Epson Tour will announce the 2022 schedule during the week of Feb. 7, and the season will begin in early March.
Nine graduates of the qualifying tour won 12 LPGA Tour titles last season, led by world No. 1 Nelly Korda. Since its start, the tour has seen more than 600 players move on to the LPGA Tour. Those players have won 458 LPGA titles.