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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 19, 202205:00 AM EST

Business Strategy: Creating a pro golf path for women

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Motivated by his daughter, a successful collegiate golfer, Mark Berman bought the National Women’s Golf Association and launched the East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour.
by: Dan Macdonald Staff Writer

For every golfer on the PGA Tour or the LPGA Tour, there are hundreds playing the mini-tours. 

They are in golf’s minor leagues. 

But unlike those in baseball, basketball or hockey, those aspiring for the big time are paying for their dreams out of their pockets.

There are several mini-tours for men. For example, a recent 72-hole Hooters Tour event had a $150,000 purse and a $24,000 first prize. 

Women may have the same desire to turn pro but not the opportunities. Purses are small, and the golf courses are not as pristine.

Because of Title IX, women’s golf used to be an easier path to scholarship money because colleges had money but there was a shortage of good players. 

The sport has grown in popularity and young girls take up the game in elementary school, Women’s collegiate golf has become competitive. 

After graduating, however, women have few places to hone their skills and learn about living the life of a pro.

Mark Berman, owner of the East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour.

The motivation

That’s where Mark Berman comes in.

His motivation is his daughter, Hannah, 23, a successful Jacksonville University golfer who has been trying to make it as a professional since graduating in 2020. 

She has played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the British Women’s Amateur.

When not working as an assistant club pro at Sawgrass Country Club, she packs her car with the clubs, shoes, balls and other equipment – that she has paid for – and heads off hopefully to place high or even win.

She knows all along she probably will lose on average $5,000 for her efforts.

Berman, of Ponte Vedra Beach, lived the challenges, then sought a solution.

As president of MediaShare Consulting Group, his career included stints working for the PGA Tour and World Golf Village. He knows the business.

He paid $40,000 on Dec. 10 for the fledgling Florida-based National Women’s Golf Association, one of three women’s mini-tours based in Arizona, Texas and Florida. 

His strategy is to provide solutions to three major challenges for women aspiring for the pros: Play, pay and post-career opportunities.

His East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour wants to provide playing opportunities.

The tour will have a winter and summer season. The winter season begins Jan. 17 at the Black Bear Golf Club in Orlando and will be followed by six more Florida stops. 

As the weather warms, the tour will move up the coast with tournaments in New England, the mid-Atlantic, Carolinas, Atlanta and North Florida.

There are plans at the end of the season to combine the Texas, Arizona and Florida mini-tours for a final championship event.

Then there’s pay.

Berman cites former Ohio State golfer Jessica Porvasnik as an example. She had a successful year by women’s mini-tour standards. But her $53,000 in 2021 winnings does not go far when the costs of travel, lodging, food, equipment and taxes become part of the equation.

“These women are making 25% of what the men are making but they aren’t able to pay 75% less for their hotel rooms,” Berman said.

More than golf

Then there are post-pro opportunities.

Berman sponsored two events last year at the World Golf Village. When the golfers weren’t playing, participating in pro-am events or practicing, they were encouraged to attend seminars and panel discussions by businesswomen who led organizations like the WNBA, Girl Scouts of the USA and Web.com. 

Berman said that during college, the golfers are so devoted to their sport that their resumes lack job experience.

Before the first seminars, 20 of the 70 players had registered to attend. Berman and his team talked to every player and emphasized why it was more important to listen to the business leaders than work an hour on their short game.

“The seminars were the most important thing they would do here. That is what they will remember.”

To support his strategy, he also wants his tour to treat the players like professionals. At his two tournaments, he had 80 volunteers. Players were given gift bags and credentials. They were fed lunch and dinner.

The East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour will have a winter and summer season. The tour begins Jan. 17 at the Black Bear Golf Club in Orlando.

Seeking sponsors

Berman wants to follow the major tours’ sponsorship model but on a smaller scale.

A company can become the tour’s title sponsor for $250,000. Individual tournament sponsors could buy that advertising for $50,000. At each tournament, Berman is offering local companies a chance to sponsor a hole.

Besides financial investments, Berman wants to move the tournaments to private clubs and for members to become involved as volunteers. 

There also would be opportunities for golf-course community residents to become host sponsors by allowing a player to stay in their home, which saves hotel costs.

Tournaments can involve 30 to 50 players. 

The club member involvement fits his strategy because it will give local business leaders a chance to meet the players, whose product is their skill. 

Many players could use the career advice of an experienced business person.

“People ask if I would be doing this if Hannah wasn’t in the game. I tell them I am doing this because of Hannah, not for Hannah,” Berman said.

 

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