2005: Women lose one mini-tour, gain another

A mini-tour opportunity for women recently opened in Florida, two days before a separately owned developmental circuit for women on the West Coast shut down.

The NGA/Hooters Tour announced April 12 that a new developmental circuit for women will begin this fall in Central Florida. Two days later, the independently owned West Coast Ladies Golf Tour ceased operations. Now officials from both tours say they plan to meet to discuss a merger, raising the possibility of keeping the West Coast tour alive.

The Hooters Tour Ladies Series will feature 54-hole events from September through February with estimated purses of $80,000 to $85,000. The 12-event fall schedule avoids conflicts with Futures Tour events – which run from March to late August – as well as the sectional and final stage of LPGA Q-School.

Entry fees are $700 for members, $800 for nonmembers, and the top 33 percent from each field will earn a check.

“With the success of our Winter Series (a Central Florida circuit for men) and with the women not having anywhere else to play, we saw a void,” said NGA/Hooters Tour president Robin L. Waters. “This is a place for the women to have a place to play and get ready for Q-School.”

The closing of the West Coast Ladies Golf Tour was something of a surprise, considering it had raised its purses to $100,000 for its first six events this season. However, following last week’s event at Longbow Golf Club in Phoenix – won by 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Becky Lucidi – tour owner Mark Canevari announced that the tour had folded and that players would not immediately receive their winnings. Lucidi was to have earned $17,000 for her victory.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people will see this as a failure but you have to look at it as a success,” Lucidi said. “(Canevari) may not have done all the right things but he did a lot for women’s golf. I’m confident that everyone will get their money. It’s just going to take a little while.”

Canevari contends that he had a verbal agreement with a sponsor to help with tournament purses. He said the sponsor called after the Longbow event and said no money would be forthcoming so he then had no choice but to close the tour. Canevari declined to name the sponsor.

“My intentions are to always be civil and make my word good,” said Canevari, whose niece, Isabelle Biesiegel, plays on the LPGA Tour. “The bottom line is that I intend to pay everyone what they’re owed.”

– Jay A. Coffin and Rex Hoggard

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