By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Over the past 14 years, Mark Berman has been on a golf journey with his daughter Hannah as she played golf at the junior, high school, college and elite level (pro). While it was exciting and rewarding, one glaring discrepancy became very clear to him, especially as Hannah went pro.
“You get to the end of college, and all of a sudden you have been lured by this dream and this promise to be able to play golf professionally — but for men versus women, it is significantly different,” he said. “When you get out of college, you are faced with very few opportunities as a woman golfer to grow and to get better.”
Consider this: On the women’s side, there is the LPGA, the Symetra Tour (2019 total money leader $124,000) and three developmental tours with average purses of $30,000 with $7,500 in average wins. On the men’s side, there is the PGA Tour, the Korn Ferry TOUR (2019 total money leader $565,000) and more than 30 developmental tours with an average purse of $100,000 with $16,000 in average wins.
“It is an age-old disparity. It is because there were always so many boys/men playing golf. It was never really focused on girls and women playing golf until about 10 or 12 years ago when the industry basically said we are focusing on getting girls to play golf,” Berman said.
When Hannah first began playing, 1,200 young women between the ages of 14 – 18 were ranked by the National Junior Golf Scoreboard.
“Now there are 5,000 ranked. And this does not include girls under the age of 14 and college age women,” said Berman. “There was never the need until all of sudden there was this explosion of girls (the high school classes of 2014 – 2018). They are now starting to graduate college, and that is the explosion. Now we have unbelievable talent, unmatched, unparalleled, innumerable talent. They are absolutely good enough to play in the LPGA or just a year or two away from it, but they need that developmental time.”
Against this backdrop, Berman, managing partner of MediaShare Consulting Group and in the golf industry for 25 years, created the first ever professional women’s golf tournament in St. Johns County and the first in Jacksonville since 1976.
The PXG Women’s Match Play Championship will take place Oct. 26 through Nov. 4 at the World Golf Village. It is under the umbrella of the Women’s All Pro Tour. It is one of only three US women’s developmental tours for women and the only one which provides a pathway into the Symetra Tour. It is open to all professional players who are not LPGA players.
“This was my brain child, my dream. I pitched to PXG to be our title sponsor, and they said absolutely,” said Berman. “I am fond of saying that I’m not doing this for Hannah, but I am doing it because of her.”
Sixty-four “rising star professional female golfers” are set to play in the back-to-back tournament series, which features one 54-hole stroke-play tournament the first week at King & Bear, followed by a Match-
Play event the following week at Slammer & Squire. Berman credits his sponsors for their generosity, which enabled the event to be free.
To be clear, though, this is not just about golf. That’s why Generation W, a Jacksonville Beach-based women’s thought leadership organization, will host the “Links to Leadership Summit” during the event.
“This event goes beyond the golf course,” said Donna Orender, founder and CEO of Generation W. “Links to Leadership will be energizing, informative and inspirational. It is designed to create the opportunity for the players and guests to learn from each other, develop personal leadership skills and provide collective connection skills.”
Hannah Berman, a 2016 Ponte Vedra High School graduate, is excited to participate in the event.
“I am so proud of my dad. He cares about women’s sports more than anyone I know,” said Hannah, now 23 and an associate golf professional in Colorado and at the Sawgrass Country Club on a seasonal basis. “Women are worth it in sports. There is no reason why we should have anything less than men. Women across the board are worth it and should feel empowered by this.”
Hannah Berman began playing golf at age nine and became a two-year captain on the Ponte Vedra High School golf team, the MVP and a four-time postseason champion.
For Mark Berman, this event, which will raise money for INK! (Investing in Kids operated by The St. Johns County Education Foundation), is all about creating opportunities for women in golf, in the community and in the golf industry.
“It is not a knock against the guys. It is just how do we create more playing opportunities and eventually earning opportunities for these young women so that they can get to their next level.”
For more information about this free event, visit www.PXGWMPC.com.
Photo courtesy Mark Berman
To help kick off the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, a Women’s Initiatives Collaboration with Generation W, PXG brought in its marketing team from Arizona and its regionals sales leaders, seen here with the official championship trophy, which was produced by Ponte Vedra Beach non-profit Ocean Sole Africa.