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November 2022

Women’s Amateur, Pro Golf Participation on the Upswing

By Scott Kauffman

After decades of female-focused marketing strategies, the golf industry is finally gaining some significant traction in growing this valuable segment of the business.

At least that’s one way to describe some of the latest data and developments regarding female golf participation. The industry got a dose of good news to start the 2022 season when the National Golf Foundation reported female golfers were the fastest-growing segment since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Moreover, the number of females in the on-course golfer pool marked a milestone in 2021, comprising 30 percent of the 12.6 million traditional green-grass golfers, up from 19 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, girls made up 35 percent, or 1.1 million, of junior golfers in 2021 compared to just 15 percent in 2000.

To be sure, one of the driving forces behind the growth in female golfers is continued Covid-19-influenced tailwinds sparking a surge in overall golf participation in general, not to mention the booming golf entertainment business sector that keeps piquing the interest of all facets of society. For instance, females now account for roughly 42 percent of the 12.4 million customers at “off-course” locations, according to the NGF’s “2021 Total U.S. Golf Participation Report” released last January.

These factors also explain the largest “Women’s Golf Day” event in the seven years of this movement, started by Elisa Gaudet. Annually held in June, the global female golf and empowerment extravaganza was hosted by more than 1,200 venues this June in 80 countries.

Now, Mark Berman and his wife, Elizabeth, are trying to capitalize on this growing girl golf power at the next level with their upstart East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour (ECWPGT).  Based in the shadows of the PGA Tour headquarters, in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla.,
the ECWPGT is one of only three women’s developmental pro tours. It hosted eight tournaments and more than 200 players since it was launched last January.

In November, the Bermans were scheduled to celebrate their successful début season with the 2022 PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, slated to be played at the Slammer & Squire Course at World Golf Village in nearby St. Augustine. Billed as the “Major of Professional Women’s Developmental Golf,” the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship features more than 80 ascending pro golfers playing for more than $150,000 in prize money as they pursue their dreams of one day playing on the LPGA Tour.

“Having spent nearly two weeks with our players last year at the PXGWMPC, we got to know them and their needs pretty well, even more than I thought we already knew,” said Mark Berman, whose daughter, Hannah, turned professional in 2020 and helped serve as the influence behind the PXG event in the first place.

“When the girls told me, ‘This is what a tournament should feel like for us – respect, celebration and tough competition,’ that’s when I knew we were just getting started with our mission of creating some real change and real opportunity in the women’s developmental game.”

Berman, who also runs MediaShare Consulting Group when he’s not advocating for women’s pro golfers, went on to say the 2021 PXG Women’s event was the inspiration for him to start the new tour. Simply put, the Tour’s mission is to “create more and better playing opportunities for women aspiring to the LPGA Tour and to create career connections and pathways for them outside the ropes,” according to Berman.

This dual golf and non-golf life mission is why PXG President and Executive Creative Director for PXG Apparel Renee Parsons renewed her corporate commitment to this weeklong event that combines unique stroke-play/match-play tournament formats.

First, all 80 players compete in a 36-hole stroke-play qualifying tournament, with the top 64 moving on to the Match-Play Championship, but with a unique format being described as “Battle Round Pods,” which ultimately cuts the field to the top 16.

Seeded by the initial stroke-play tournament, each of the 64 advancing players are split into 16 foursomes of Battle Round Pods, who wind up playing each other in a complete nine-hole, round-robin match-play scenario and earning respective points for each “Battle” or match-play victory.

The winner of the match receives a bonus point, effectively making each “Battle” worth 10 points. The winner of each Battle Round Pod is the player with the most points, not necessarily the player with the best won-loss record.

Then, the 16 victorious Battle Round Pod players advance to the “knockout rounds” of traditional match play, culminating under the iconic Tower of the World Golf Hall of Fame.  Each segment of the tournament has its own guaranteed $50,000 purse, shared between the respective stroke play, battle rounds, and match-play champions.

 “PXG has made it our mission to help advance the game of golf by encouraging more women to pursue the sport at every level,” said Parsons, who, besides running PXG with her husband, Bob Parsons, is in her 10th year as co-owner of Scottsdale National Golf Club. “From tour professional to aspiring player, every person deserves to feel welcomed and supported. That is why we have sought out progressive partnerships like the Women’s Match Play Championship to help build an onramp for women to be inspired and grow.”

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