Tour de Golf Tours: The Futures Tour

Lost Marsh Golf Club, Hammond IN

I feel bad for women professional golfers. I really do.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time around women’s golf, so I feel qualified to say this – I have yet to see a female pro truly grasp the essence of the golf swing. I’m not trying to get all Hank Haney or anything, but they all seem to labor under the misconception that swinging smoothly and rhythmically through the golf ball will somehow propel it adequately. Please.

Every male golfer knows that to really succeed at golf you have to get a python-like grip on the club, tense up every single one of your muscles, and swing from the heels, timing your forward lunge precisely. It also helps to actually lift one of your feet off of the ground at some point in the swing. Any other approach will result in the golf ball travelling just 80 or 90 yards. This is common knowledge among men.

It was armed with this special insight into the game that I ventured out into the world of pro golf. And in a thought pattern that all but the newest reader will recognize, I figured why do something simple if I can over-do it? Why visit one pro golf tour when you can see two…or three…or four. In the same week. Yes, I’m aware that most people don’t think this way. But the opportunity was just sitting there for the taking. In fact, logistical child’s play:

• On Wednesday, the Futures Tour City of Hammond Classic ProAm, outside of Chicago
• On Friday, second round action at the LPGA Championship in Rochester, NY
• On Saturday, the Champions Tour – specifically, day two of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, NY
• And to wrap it up, Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut

Beginning this adventure with the Futures Tour was a no-brainer. In addition to providing me with a chance to actually take part in an event I was covering, the City of Hammond Classic enabled me to once and for all put to rest the age-old saying “You can’t go home again”. Having worked for the Futures Tour for several years, I am now here to tell you that you can.

Not only was it like going home, it was like going home on Thanksgiving weekend, playing touch football in the back yard with all your cousins, and getting the wishbone from the turkey. The Futures Tour is that comfortable.

Blessed with the most approachable pro athletes on the planet, this tour is to women’s golf what the Nationwide Tour is to the men – the launching pad for a career on golf’s biggest stage. Scan the final results of virtually any LPGA tournament, and you will find dozens of players who have previously graced the fairways of the Futures Tour. And “graced” is the operative word here.

The purse money is not great. Travel is almost exclusively by car – often hundreds of miles at a time between Tour stops. Sponsorships and endorsement deals are hard to come by. Just five players each year earn the right to graduate to the LPGA Tour with a fully unrestricted membership. But despite all of that, these young women approach every tournament as another opportunity to succeed. And they get it, with “it” being the dynamics of professional sports in the new millennium.

Ask pretty much any Futures Tour player to define their job, and they’ll tell you: (a) Play great golf; and (b) Entertain fans and sponsors. And they take both responsibilities equally seriously. Which is why playing in a Futures Tour ProAm is just about the most fun you can possibly have while losing a dozen golf balls and most of your golfing self-esteem.

So it was with fingers crossed that I contacted Tournament Director Carole Jo Fremouw to inquire about the possibility of squeezing me into the field for the first of the two ProAms that kicked off the City of Hammond Classic’s tournament festivities. And Carole Jo being Carole Jo, not only did she find me a spot, she paired me with Bill Sokolis and Aaron Moore, the respective Owner and GM of the Chicago Bandits.

The Bandits are the defending champions of the National Pro Fastpitch league, the only women’s professional softball league in the country. They feature a roster of decorated collegiate and Team USA softball players, and play a schedule of 50+ games a year, culminating in a late-August championship series in Louisiana. And they face the exact same challenges as did I when working for the Futures Tour – how to effectively carve out a space for a “second tier” sports property in a crowded sports and entertainment world.

So not only would I be enjoying the company of an engaging young golf pro for the afternoon – I would be taking part in a mobile sports marketing symposium. Sweet. Can you blame me for showing up almost two hours before tee time?

To be continued…

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