The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, April 29, 2021
All about the Cactus Tour — Best Brooke Henderson tweets — Must-click women's golf links
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All about the Cactus Tour
During the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting hiatus for the LPGA Tour, a lot of players sought out different tours to compete on and different events to play in. One of the main places that saw quite a bit of LPGA player participation was the Cactus Tour.
As someone who briefly considered playing professionally, I am pretty familiar with this tour, but I realize that not everyone would know about this outlet for female professional golfers. With their season beginning to ramp up, I wanted to feature this tour and highlight its contributions to the success of women’s professional golf.
The Cactus Tour was founded in 2005 by Bruce Condon and then was purchased in late 2010 by Mike Brown, who still serves as the Tour Director and single-handedly runs the events week to week. There have been 37 tournaments contested this season and the 38th is scheduled to begin on November 30th.
Both professionals and amateurs alike are allowed to compete in events, with the tour having the occasional tournament for amateurs only. Many participants have gone on to have incredibly successful careers on both the Symetra and LPGA Tours and Brown says that the tour is a necessity in the world of women’s golf because it gives all levels of players a chance to compete.
“The importance of the tour is that there is a place for all pros to play, from the rookie out of high school or college to the seasoned professional,” Brown told The IX in an interview. “It provides a place for young pros and amateurs to work on their skills all year long, whether it’s getting ready for the start of the Symetra Tour or the LPGA season as well as prepare for Q-School. All of the high caliber players actually came through the Cactus Tour at one time or another, some of them having won as amateurs as well as pros.”
Just last season, the Cactus Tour has seen the likes of Anna Nordqvist, Mina Harigae, Sophia Popov, Carlota Ciganda, and Haley Moore competing, with all five taking home at least one victory. Popov’s success in particular was incredibly special to Brown since, after competing on his circuit, Sophia went on to claim her maiden LPGA Tour victory and a major title at the AIG Women’s Open, which was arguably the most moving golf moment in 2020.
“I have a lot of great memories probably too many to mention, but the most recent one would have to be Sophia Popov winning her first pro event out here in April and then winning two more before going on to win the British Women’s Open,” says Brown.
There are many more success stories just like Popov’s that begin with the Cactus Tour. It’s often the first place that female golfers begin to dip their toes into professional golf and, if you watch the leaderboards during these events, you’ll tend to see a lot of familiar names that pop up on the Symetra and LPGA Tours later on. Brown says that it’s enjoyable for him to be a part of these women’s careers and that he sees a lot of Cactus Tour alumni playing on the LPGA Tour each week.
“We have 20+ players every week on the LPGA,” says Brown. “It is always good to watch players succeed through all the levels.”
It’s often forgotten that, outside of the Women’s All Pro Tour, Symetra Tour, Ladies European Tour, and a few small circuits based in Asia, many young female professionals are searching for affordable places to play. Unlike the men with the Mackenzie Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamérica, Challenge Tour, and Korn Ferry Tour along with numerous other small professional tours, the women don’t have nearly as many options to sharpen their skills before attempting to qualify for the LPGA Tour. Furthermore, the Cactus Tour provides players a way to earn a paycheck and, while the purses aren’t always the largest, money is money when it comes to surviving as a professional golfer.
Never was this tour more important than when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with most players being left without a steady source of income since many female professionals aren’t paid contractually via sponsorship. The Cactus Tour was pretty much the only option most of these women had to both get competitive reps and make money, so it became an outlet for a lot of LPGA talent.
With the uncertainty still surrounding vaccination and concerns from players about when and where they can and should schedule events, we could see more and more players utilizing this tour as a place to play and as an outlet to support themselves financially.
Hopefully we continue to see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and those worries will be assuaged throughout the rest of 2021, but, either way, now you have another women’s golf tour to follow and keep up with. If you’re interested in helping the Cactus Tour and the women competing on it, Brown says financial support is the best way to do so.
“The most important thing that fans could do is help out with support be it the product or financially,” Brown told The IX. “Putting more money in the hands of these young players helps them to continue their journey.”
While not everyone can afford to do so, following this tour and engaging with their social media content is just as effective. More eyeballs on a product increases that product’s value which, in the case of this tour, ups the chances for potential sponsorship. That sponsorship then equals larger purse sizes which can really change the lives and further the career of these players.
Thus, while sometimes overlooked, the Cactus Tour is critical to the success of women’s professional golf and does an impeccable job of providing an affordable outlet for women to compete and grow in their games. Without it, who knows where some of our favorite LPGA players would be or if up-and-coming female professionals would even have a place to play.
So, check it out! It’s a great place to watch rookies get their starts and, with more participation overall in 2020, who knows who you’ll see competing out there next.
This week in women’s golf
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