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The cost of touring

June 16, 2017

Avid golf fans might not realize how much is at stake for most of the professionals on the LPGA Tour.  

At the top end, where TV coverage is concentrated, the battle is not only for the title, but also for the large payouts for LPGA favorites such as Lydia Ko or Lexi Thompson. An LPGA winner’s check can be well north of $200,000 - similar to the PGA Tour in the years before Tiger Woods, whose televised exploits helped create the now-common million-dollar paydays for the winners on the men’s tour.

For many LPGA touring pros, however, playing well enough to make the cut and maybe finish among the top 25 that week is the real goal. Playing on tour has its costs, and too many missed cuts also cut deeply into the bottom line. An LPGA golfer's net annual salary on tour can be surprisingly modest, and far below what most fans might assume.

To stay exempt for the next season, LPGA players must finish in the top 100 on the annual money list. Celine Herbin was No. 100 in 2016, earning $90,577 in 15 events. Ariya Jutanugarn, the No. 1 player, made $2,550,947 in official money in 28 events. 

The dollar differences are tight at the bottom. Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece, was No. 96 at $106,005, playing 21 events. Vicky Hurst was No. 101, earning $85,991 with the same number of tournaments.

Of course, those are the gross totals - once the cost of touring is deducted, the money shrinks considerably.

Jackie Stoelting is fully exempt on the LPGA Tour this year, graduating from the 2016 Symetra Tour. The 30-year-old played the LPGA in 2015, but lost her card with only a few cuts made. 

When the 2017 ShopRite LPGA Classic began June 1, Stoelting was in 88th place on the 2017 list, and she played well enough to make several cuts. However, she admitted she was pressing a bit much on the weekends and hadn't taken advantage of the opportunities as much as she hoped. 

Stoelting described her own cost of touring, some of which puts her at an advantage over other pros. She benefits from being fully exempt, which means she can play in nearly every tournament from January through September. 

However, playing in the six season-ending, limited-field Asian Swing tournaments requires a high position on the money list. Stoelting and most other LPGA players therefore have to make their money well before then to keep their exempt status. 

Her husband Travis is also her caddie and golf instructor. Regular caddies on the LPGA typically are paid $1,200 to $1,500 per event, often supplemented with a percentage of the payout. Travis was an assistant club pro when she started out on tour. They quickly decided caddying for Jackie made far more sense than paying someone else more than Travis’s club job.  

Travis continues to give lessons at Meadowood Golf & Tennis Club in Fort Pierce, Fla., where they are also members. The Stoeltings appreciate the club's support in the form of free membership, which provides access to the range and playing time. Jackie knows other players who don't have that benefit.

Note: This is part one of a two-part series.

DSGA Scholarship winners announced

At the Rehoboth Beach Junior Open June 12, the Delaware State Golf Association Scholarship Fund announced this year’s winners of its scholarships.

Devin Sanders won the Robert McCurry Award, named after a founder of the fund and a great friend of junior golf. The Caesar Rodney graduate will go to the University of Delaware, and he received $5,200 for the first year, up to $20,800 total.

Red Lion Christian Academy graduate Zachary Barbin of Elkton, Md., won the James Powell Award. He will attend Liberty University, and he received $3,800 for first year, up to $15,200. 

Andrew Brown of Charter School of Wilmington will be going to Villanova, helped by an award of $2,500 per year, up to $10,000. Evan Brown of Kennett High School, Pa., will attend Loyola, receiving the same scholarship award.

Matthew Zehner, a four-year player on the Cape Henlopen High School golf team, will be going to Penn State University’s main campus. The fund awarded him $2,000 for the first year, up to $8,000.

The DSGA runs a major fundraiser tournament in October at Rehoboth Beach Country Club as its main source of proceeds. Scholarship winners demonstrate high academic achievement, community service, and a love of golf. 

For more information about the fund, or to make a contribution, go to www.dsga.org/junior-golf/scholarship-fund.

Local club competition results

The Kings Creek CC Ladies 9-Hole group played a team Cha Cha game June 7. For odd holes, only one Cha (net score) is used. For even holes, two Cha Chas are used. 

Carole Ellison, Mary Beth Merolla and Kathy Nave won first place, with second going to Mary Mezger, Judi Pezone and Gail Petron. 

Hope Lavachia won closest to the pin on the 13th hole.

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