LPGA Tour and Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Epson America, Inc., announced a five-year agreement to kick off the technology company’s title sponsorship of exclusive naming rights to the Official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA. The newly named Epson Tour enters its 42nd year of structured competition in 2022. Per the company, it is the most established women’s qualifying tour in the world as the one “Road to the LPGA.” The two brands come together in this global initiative to celebrate women in the spirit of competition.
The Epson Tour sponsorship takes effect immediately and extends through the 2026 calendar year. It will award LPGA Tour membership to the top 10 players on the Race for the Card money list at the end of each season. Epson America’s parent company, Seiko Epson Corporation, is also an official partner of the LPGA Tour and the Epson Tour.
Mollie Marcoux Samaan, LPGA Tour commissioner, expresses delight on having Epson as a partner. According to Samaan, the partnership will provide expanded opportunities for the future stars of the game from around the globe to test their talent. She adds, “We are grateful that Epson shares our commitment to supporting young female athletes as they grow and develop and to playing an active role in the growth and equity in women’s sports. The ‘Road to the LPGA’ has never been better.”
Epson and the LPGA commit to enhancing player experiences and events. They will do so by focusing on the support and empowerment of all Epson Tour members. This will be throughout their time on Tour and upon graduation to the LPGA. Further, the combination of each organization’s global platform demonstrates an ongoing commitment to diversity. At the same time, it will achieve Epson’s aspirational goals of sustainability and enriching communities.
Keith Kratzberg, CEO, Epson America, Inc., says that Epson’s support for the LPGA and the Epson Tour underscores a corporate commitment to empowering women. It will also help launch the careers of exceptional individuals. He remarks, “We are honored to have the opportunity to support these elite athletes and their individual journeys to qualify for the LPGA Tour, and beyond.”
The yearly Epson Tour Ambassador Program will officially begin in 2022. It plans to extend $10,000 to each of the 2021 Epson Tour graduates, providing financial assistance to jumpstart the beginning of their new LPGA Tour journey. In addition, Epson is increasing the standard tournament purse size to $200,000.
Fatima Fernandez Cano, an Epson Tour graduate in 2020 and 2021, also comments on the partnership. Cano is also the first representative of the Epson Tour Ambassador Program. She highlights the impact of the partnership. “They aren’t just putting their name on the Epson Tour, but truly walking the walk and backing women’s futures,” says Cano. She then extends her gratitude toward Epson. Cano adds, “…When I came to America from Spain to play college golf at Troy, these types of moments were a dream. Now it’s reality and I’m in a better position because of Epson.”
The partnership includes contribution of funds to initially lower entry fees by 10% per tournament for each player throughout the season. This underscores Epson’s commitment to advancing the careers of talented female golfers. Thus, it amounts to as much as $1,000 per individual over the course of the year. Part of this initiative is the creation of the Epson Tour DEI Partnership. Here, Epson and the LPGA are challenging at least four other companies to join them in elevating the competitive drive and dedication of Epson Tour members. To do so, the companies will work together to cut player-entry fees in half, from $500 to $250. In addition, participating organizations will receive Pro-Am teams and signage at every Epson Tour tournament.
Kendra Jones, VP, legal affairs and general counsel, Epson America, Inc., emphasizes that the company doesn’t wish to have only the name on the Epson Tour. According to Jones, they want to look for ways to “invest in players chasing their dream of the LPGA Tour.” Jones adds that the company will then continue to support them through the Epson Tour Ambassador Program. “We hope other companies will join us as we empower women through the DEI Partnership in cooperation with the LPGA,” she says.
Support for Women
During the 2021 LPGA Tour season, nine former graduates or Epson Tour alumnae claimed 12 LPGA Tour wins. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda, who captured four titles and a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, led the rankings. Other notable LPGA players who started on the Epson Tour include major champions Inbee Park from the Republic of Korea and Lorena Ochoa of Mexico. It also includes Australia’s Hannah Green. These individuals exemplify the international draw of the Epson Tour. The Tour annually attracts players from more than 40 countries. Moreover, in the last seven years, it has graduated 65 players from 21 nations.
Mike Nichols, chief business officer of LPGA Qualifying Tours, extends his gratitude toward Epson’s support. He adds that the support of a global brand like Epson allows the Tour to attract world-class players. “We are especially appreciative of the immediate impact Epson will make, contributing to purses, player-entry fees, and supporting past and future Epson Tour graduates,” Nichols says.
The 2022 Epson Tour schedule will be announced during the week of Feb. 7. However, the season is set to open in Winter Haven, Fla. It will also feature the return of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at the Country Club of Winter Haven from March 4-6.
Epson will also assume sponsorship of the Epson Tour Championship, which concludes the season in Daytona Beach, Fla., from Oct. 6-9 at LPGA International.
The LPGA is a prominent professional golf organization for women. The organization’s goal is to change the face of golf by making the sport more accessible and inclusive.