2009 Futures Tour Tees Off

By: Dave Andrews

When Kira Meixner of Richmond, B.C., tees off at 8:15 Friday morning in Winter Haven, Fla., she will become the first player to put a ball in play in the Duramed Futures Tour's 2009 season. One hundred and forty four players will be competing this weekend in the tour's first event of the year, the $100,000 Florida's Natural Growers Charity Classic. The winner of the three-day event will walk away with the top prize of $14,000.

This week's tournament at Lake Region Yacht and Country Club is the first of 17 events in the tour's six-month season. This year's circuit will take the players to 14 states, concluding in Albany, N.Y., in early September. The 10 players who earn the most money will gain membership in the LPGA for the 2010 season. The top-five money winners will get priority status and qualify for all the full-field events on next year's tour. Making the top five is the ultimate goal of every player competing this week in Winter Haven.

Some of the rising young stars in women's golf will be competing this year. They come from around the world, with no fewer than 32 different countries represented on the tour's roster. American players hail from 40 states. The youngest player competing this week is 16-year-old Hannah Yun of Bradenton, Fla. The oldest is 44-year-old Lori Atsedes of Ithaca, N.Y.

There are several former LPGA members competing this week. These are players who lost their playing status on the LPGA and are trying to re-qualify for the "big" tour. There are players who've spent five, six, or more years on the Futures Tour, not yet ready to give up their dreams. There are also teenagers just out of high school and young women fresh from college beginning their professional careers.

Life on the Futures Tour is not glamorous. Most of the players spend more in entry fees and traveling expenses than they'll earn in events. Most will drive from one event to the next, putting thousands of miles on their cars over the next six months. Most will stay with volunteer host families in the cities and towns where they'll be playing to save cost on motel rooms. Most are "paying their dues" for the potential of big paydays, fame, and a long and rewarding LPGA career.

The LPGA purchased the Duramed Futures Tour in 2007. Competing on the Futures is the second way - besides Q School - for players to earn coveted LPGA playing status. The five-top money winners from last year's Futures Tour season are competing this week in an LPGA event in Mexico, a situation this year's class wants to duplicate in 2010.

For more information about the Futures Tour, including player profiles, statistics and real-time scoring, visit http://duramedfuturestour.com.

Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. He's also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour. His home course in Concord, N.H., is annually the site of one of the tour's events. The inspiration for Dave's 2007 novel, "Pops and Sunshine," came from meeting many of the young aspiring women golfers on that tour. Each of them has a passion, dedication and determination that he finds remarkable. His novel is a fictionalization of the dream that these young women share. To order Dave's book, visit http://popsandsunshine.com.