A landmark women’s golf tournament is coming to World Golf Village in 2021.
Monday, organizers announced the creation of The Orca Golf Bags Women’s Match Play Championship, the first professional women’s tournament in St. Johns County and the first in the Jacksonville market since 1976.
The two weeks of tournament play, scheduled for Oct. 26 through Nov. 7, 2021, will be the centerpiece of what will be a celebration of women’s initiatives on the course, in the boardroom and in the community.
The series will feature 64 women professionals looking to fulfill their dream of playing on the LPGA Tour. The first week will feature a 54-hole stroke-play tournament on the King & Bear course, which will also seed the second week’s event, a 64-woman match-play championship at the Slammer & Squire course.
Each tournament will have its own prize purse, a guarantee of $50,000 shared between the two events. The winner will also receive a commemorative golf bag designed by Erica Bennett, co-CEO of Orca Golf Bags, which is sponsoring the event.
“From the get-go, we loved the vision of this tournament and knew we had to help make it happen,” said Bennett. “A tournament such as this was a goal of mine as a golfer who did not have the opportunity when I was young. We are elated to have it happen in 2021.”
The series will feature a pro-am event, junior clinics and community-based activities and fundraising opportunities.
In addition to the competition, GenerationW, a national nonprofit based in Jacksonville Beach, will provide leadership forums, executive networking and education.
“The creation of this championship perfectly aligns with the work of GenerationW,” said Stacy Ellison, director of operations and programming for the nonprofit.
Mark Berman of MediaShare Consulting Group in Ponte Vedra Beach got the idea for the event in January while planning his daughter’s rookie schedule for her professional career. Hannah Berman, a professional Women’s All Pro Tour player, is a former member of the Jacksonville University and Ponte Vedra High School golf teams.
Mark Berman noticed how few playing opportunities existed for women looking for a place to hone their games and prepare to try to qualify for the LPGA Tour. Also, he took note of the inefficient scheduling, which required players to crisscross the country, racking up expenses for flights, gas and hotel stays.
The result of his observations is the new tournament series, run as a collaboration between MediaShare Consulting Group, GenerationW and On the Green Consulting of Jacksonville, which will handle much of the tournament operations. The series will represent two of the 14 official events on the Women’s All Pro Tour, a tour for young professional women golfers who aspire to become LPGA players.
Monday, Hannah Berman spoke about the importance of the series to young golfers like herself.
“For an event like this to be here for two weeks, it allows us to get to know each other, to travel together and to elevate our games to the next level and learn how to compete against each other and hopefully keep moving up the ladder,” she said.
In creating the event, Mark Berman said he wanted it to be about more than golf, that it was also about helping to empower the women and creating educational environments and opportunities to meet mentors and to mentor others.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to inspire a lot of young women and be able to hopefully help the careers of aspiring LPGA stars of the future,” said Reagan Davis, general manager of World Golf Village golf courses.
For more information on pro-am spots, tickets and key sponsorships and volunteering, go to theorcagolf.com.