Mark Berman is putting his money where his mouth is – again.
When Berman organized the inaugural PXG Women’s Match Play Championship in November with the simple mission of shining a light on women’s developmental golf, he had no idea it would lead to buying an entire tour. But that’s exactly what happened as Berman closed on purchasing the Florida-based NWGA, a 16-year-old women’s tour. His plan is to rebrand it as The East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour and rebuild it from the ground up, providing more playing and earning opportunities for professional female golfers.
Currently, there are only three developmental tours in the U.S., which host events in Florida, Arizona, and Texas and a few surrounding states. Inspired by the players and their stories, Berman is setting out to create more playing opportunities for women pros. The circuit will launch with a Winter Series beginning January 17 followed by its summer schedule in May with events in the eastern third of the U.S.
“While all three tours will have their share of future LPGA stars, the ECWPGT is positioned to deliver a more economically viable pathway for women in the Eastern third of the country where no professional events at this level currently exist,” Berman said in a press release announcing the sale and rebranding of the tour.
The ECWPGT will kick off with a Winter Series at the Black Bear Golf Course in Orlando, followed by six more tournaments throughout Florida. The summer schedule will be announced at the 2022 PGA Merchandise Show and will coincide with State Opens in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas, Georgia and wrapping up with the PXGWMPC as an end of season culmination.
“Our goal is to complement the other tours rather than compete,” Berman said. “We’ll keep an eye on schedules, so players don’t have to choose one over another. At the same time, there are plenty of players looking for tournaments. We’re creating events in areas where players are currently underserved, helping them cut down on front-end costs.”
“The PXGWMPC gave us a 10-day focus group which reinforced our belief in the need for more playing opportunities, but also shed light on the need to expand the actual geography,” said Berman, who will run the ECWPGT under the umbrella of his marketing company MediaShare Consulting Group, Inc. “Hearing their stories motivated us to get even more involved with their success.”
Berman’s developmental circuit has also established the Access Golf Fund to provide financial support for its players. The Access Golf Fund will help ensure each tournament purse reflects the value and importance these women bring to the game, making it worth their while to invest their time and money into pursuing their LPGA careers. The Access Golf Fund will also provide scholarship dollars to assist players with entry fees and travel costs, the two biggest prohibitors to their success. While the Tour itself will seek sponsors to cover operating costs and purses, the Access Golf Fund will be an opportunity for the public to support women’s professional golf in smaller increments rather than in the bright lights of sponsorship.
The ECWPGT is open primarily to the developmental professional players, those ranked below the Top 14 on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. The tour will accept amateur players ages 16 and over on a waitlist basis as space permits and plans to award WAGR points.
Registration for the Winter Series is currently open on the Tour’s website, www.ECWPGT.com.