Get ready, college golf.
Golfweek has learned about an exciting new venture the PGA Tour is working on that will have a huge impact on the sport.
“The PGA Tour has been working to develop a new program that will identify, prepare and transition top collegiate golfers to professional golf,” according to a Tour statement sent to Golfweek. “This program will be designed to reward season-long collegiate play with varying levels of playing access to tours operated under the PGA Tour umbrella, while upholding the principles and virtues of collegiate athletics.”
In other words, the best college golfers would be guaranteed status on one of several tours, ranging from PGA Tour China to the PGA Tour.
One Tour official with direct knowledge of the project called it “unprecedented.”
Few details have been finalized, and a timetable for the system’s launch is unknown. But the Tour acknowledged this is happening, and there are significant resources devoted to the project. The Tour already is working in collaboration with its policy board, player advisory councils and other stakeholders. It also has asked for feedback from various governing bodies, the NCAA and college coaches.
“We hope that this will elevate our product and our tours,” the Tour official told Golfweek on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly. “But this is not just a one-sided thing. It’s well-rounded.”
The Tour is still working on solidifying the criteria used for determining which players receive cards, though it will be far more dynamic than, for example, just taking the top players from the World Amateur Golf Ranking or other ranking system already in place.
One detail for certain is the program will incentivize players to stay in school and pursue an education.
“If a freshman was to turn pro, are they going to be eligible for this program? Likely not,” the official said.
The news comes about a month after seven top women’s college players earned LPGA status through that tour’s revamped Q-Series. While some players have deferred status until after the spring, several, including Alabama teammates Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman and UCLA’s Lilia Vu, decided to turn pro and leave their college teams in the middle of the season.
While the Tour’s new idea isn’t a response to what the LPGA has done, a focus will be on avoiding that scenario to benefit all parties involved.
“This is an opportunity for a lot of great change,” the official said. “This will hopefully change the landscape of college golf. If you look at other sports leagues, it’s a little bit different. They have draft systems where players go directly to leagues and they are identified through their play in college.
That sort of rough thinking, you know, why doesn’t golf have that? … This hopefully will be a solution to that problem.” Gwk
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