The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, November 19, 2020
All about the Cactus Tour! — Jin Young Ko's press conference — 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 wrap 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 this 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 surrounding the early portion of the LPGA Tour season and Australia already cancelling a slew of women’s events scheduled for 2021, we could see another, albeit briefer, hiatus next year for the women’s game. If that does happen, I bet that many LPGA players will utilize this tour as a place to play and as an outlet to support themselves financially.
I really hope that doesn’t happen, but, if it does, 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 this year, who knows who you’ll see competing out there next.
To keep up with the Cactus Tour, follow them on Instagram or on Twitter. You can also check out their website!
This week in women’s golf
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The LPGA Tour is back in action this week at the Pelican Women’s Championship. (via LPGA.com)
Welcome back! Jin Young Ko returns to play this week. (via LPGA.com)
There are notable names in and out of the U.S. Women’s Open next month. (via Golfweek)
Pelican Golf Club, the site of this week’s LPGA Tour stop, wanted to host the LPGA before their course renovations were even finished. (via Golfweek)
Ally McDonald is much more self-assured after her first victory on the LPGA Tour. (via LPGA.com)
Brittany Altomare is close to home at the Pelican’s Women Championship. (via LPGA.com)
The Solheim Cup will be moving to even years beginning in 2024. (via Golfweek)
The story of Ann Gregory and her life in golf as told by her daughter. (via Golf.com)
What you need to know about the inaugural Pelican Women’s Championship. (via LPGA.com)
There’s one more major in 2020 and the field is finalized for the U.S. Women’s Open. (via LPGA.com)
World number one Jin Young Ko finally returns to the LPGA Tour. (via Golf Digest)
Minjee Lee will spend Thanksgiving this year with her host family from 2015 Volunteers of America Classic. (via LPGA.com)
The U.S. Women’s Open has a strong field to wrap up 2020 major season. (via Golf Digest)
Karrie Webb tees it up for the first time since February this week. (via Golfweek)
Sierra Brooks is in the field this week as a tournament sponsor exemption. (via LPGA.com)
Learn more about Frida Kinhult, one of the LPGA’s newest members. (via LPGA.com)
Brittany Lincicome is also teeing it up at home this week. (via LPGA.com)
Briggs Ranch Golf Club, LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, and the First Tee – Greater San Antonio are putting on a girls golf clinic in San Antonio on November 21st. (via LPGA.com)
More on the Solheim Cup changing to even years in 2024. (via LPGA.com)
Haylee Harford, who played in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, reflects on her time in Augusta. (via SymetraTour.com)
The Symetra Tour and Women’s All Pro Tour will continue their partnership. (via SymetraTour.com)
The Junior Solheim Cup’s qualification schedule has been released. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Solheim Cup will be played back to back in 2023 and 2024 with event moving to even years. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
There’s a new event on the Ladies European Tour in 2021. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
All about the Saudi Ladies Team International. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Emily Kristine Pedersen wins first women’s golf event hosted in Saudi Arabia. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Pedersen increases lead in the Race to Costa del Sol with win in Saudi Arabia. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Anne van Dam went under the sea with Mariam Fardous in deep diving experience. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Solheim Cup is changing it’s schedule up starting in 2024. (via Golf Digest)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Jin Young Ko at the Pelican Women’s Championship
Jin Young Ko returns to the LPGA Tour this week. Here’s what the world number one had to say about her return to golf, the state of her game, and what she was up to during her time off.
On returning to the LPGA and her goals for the end of the season: “It’s good. I miss the tour. Also I miss being competitive. I want to win again. I can’t play right now at the CME so trying to get to CME is a good goal for me right now. I want to do my best these next two weeks and then also in the U.S. Open.”
On what she did during her time off: “I’m doing great. I had maybe eight or nine months in Korea, so I did a lot of things. I had been taking cooking classes and doing meditation, working out, practicing a lot. I have to cook more Korean food in the U.S. so I went to cooking classes.”
On playing on the KLPGA: “ I had good tournaments in Korea. I played maybe five or six events. I finished good also, maybe five top 10s. I don’t know, but it was good. Then my caddie came to Korea and he quarantined for two weeks in Korea. We had three events together and I finished top 10 in like three events–finished top two and then top three and top seven. So it was a good time. Korea is so chilly right now, so we had a tough time playing golf. But it was good.”
On her game at the moment: “It’s so much different than last year, because last year I had a lot of tournaments, maybe over 20 events, but this year I had just five events. So I need to find my feel on the course. So it’s tough, but it’s getting better, better and better. I want to have more consistency under 100 meters. I have played for 17 years, over 17 years, so it’s tough to change my swing. It’s easy to change it in small amounts, but changing it in a big amount can be difficult. So I am trying to be better under 100 meters and with my short game.”
On feeling nervous about her first event back: “Yeah, I’m a little nervous because I don’t know what will happen. But I have to accept that feeling, so I will enjoy looking at these views. They’re amazing.”