LPGA members still trying to earn cards in Japan
RICHMOND, Texas -- The 2010 LPGA schedule was released here Tuesday and the fact it contains only 23 or 24 events, depending on how you do the math, explains why several LPGA members are trying to get the their cards for next year on the Japan LPGA. More than a dozen members were in the mix originally, but now it is down to Seon Hwa Lee, Candie Kung and Inbee Park. These are not insignificant players. Kung has four LPGA careers victories, as does Lee, who was the 2006 Rookie of the Year. Park has won once, but it was the 2008 U.S. Women's Open.
The JLPGA has 34 tournaments on its 2010 schedule as of now, and sources familiar with the Japan women's tour say the worst-case scenario is that it will have 31, still significantly better than the LPGA. While the LPGA says it expects to have 24 tournaments in 2010, it began the 2009 season with 31 but played only 27, losing the Ginn Open, Kapalua and China along the way with the Bell Micro being pushed to next year.
Purses on the JLPGA have been about two-thirds those of the LPGA in recent years, but that gap will narrow significantly next year when the total LPGA purse drops from $60 million in 2008 to a little more than $40 million in 2010. And if Kung, Lee and Park play both tours they will have ample opportunity. There are 17 off-weeks on the 2010 LPGA schedule between its mid-February start and finish the third week of November.
-- Ron Sirak