The Epson Tour Championship, the season-ending tournament for the LPGA’s developmental tour, won’t be played in Indian Wells until October, but already there are changes happening for the event.
The city of Indian Wells agreed to host and sponsor the Epson Tour Championship last November, in part as a way to showcase the city owned golf resort and in part as a way to perhaps get the LPGA itself to return to the desert in the coming years.
Either way, Indian Wells is getting into the women’s golf business with the Epson Tour Championship, the event that caps the season-long chase for LPGA exemptions for aspiring players. The LPGA announced last week that the Tour Champions will be a little more friendly to players looking for those exemptions.
In the last, the Epson Tour Championship has awarded LPGA playing cards to the top 10 players in the season-long points battle, with the Tour Championship playing a major part in that chase. But starting in October when the Epson Tour Championship moves to the Player Course at the IWGR, the top 15 golfers from the season-long chase will be LPGA cards.
“We are thrilled to announce the news of expanded access to the LPGA for Epson Tour Members at the end of the upcoming season,” said the Epson Tour’s Chief Business and Operations Officer, Jody Brothers. “We annually review the performance data of our recent graduates, and the additional access substantiates that Epson Tour athletes are arriving to the LPGA ready to perform at the highest stage.”
In other words, much like the PGA Tour several years ago, the LPGA is saying an entire year of solid play by a golfer on the Epson Tour is better preparation for a year on the LPGA that merely working your way through the stages of qualifying tournaments.
There are some complications to the additions five cards to be offering next October, with players 11 through 15 falling into a different eligibility category than the top 10 players. But the idea is still to get more players with more tournament experience for a year onto the LPGA for the 2025 season.
Indian Wells is new host
It also means that the playelrs who come to Indian Wells next October have more to play for than golfers in the Epson Tour Championship in recent years. That, in turn, will make Indian Wells an important part of the Epson Tour and LPGA story in the fall. That’s exactly what the city is hoping for with it deal to bring the developmental tour to the desert. Make the LPGA look hard at what the city has to offer and what the city course will produce for the women’s professional tour.
Make no mistake, the city’s gamble on bringing the Epson Tour to the Coachella Valley doesn’t necessarily guarantee the LPGA will return to the desert, at least not right away. There are plenty of issues that would have to be resolved for the LPGA, including the right spot on the LPGA schedule, television on Golf Channel and other items like the purse for an event. And the LPGA might be worried that a tournament in the desert will always be compared to the old Dinah Shore major championship.
But having the Epson Tour Championship in 2024 be a bigger part of what the LPGA will look like in 2025 certainly helps the city with its future sponsorship of the event. The Epson Tour may not be the LPGA, but the Epson Tour’s biggest event with so much riding on it could get desert fans excited, and that will produce the galleries that the LPGA will be looking at for any future decision on its return to the desert.
Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun. You can contact him at (760) 778-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Changes already coming to Epson Tour Championship in Indian Wells