LPGA, Symetra to merge 2020-21 seasons for eligibility, rankings

LPGA, Symetra to merge 2020-21 seasons for eligibility, rankings
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The LPGA will merge its 2020 and ’21 seasons for the purposes of eligibility and priority rankings, but will keep those two seasons separate in its historical and official record.

That was the news from the LPGA commissioner’s office Wednesday, as was the announcement that the Meijer Classic is being canceled with the tour continuing to adjust to life amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Symetra Tour will also adopt the same plans with the merger of its 2020 and ’21 seasons for eligibility purposes.

That means Q-School and Q-Series won’t be staged this year, with no route that way to next year’s LPGA player ranks. However, Symetra Tour players competing this year will continue to have a route to the 2021 LPGA season, with the possibility up to five promotions will be allowed, depending on how many Symetra Tour events are played this year.

In this merging, the 2021 LPGA and Symetra Tour priority lists will essentially be the same as the 2020 lists. That means the status a player took into 2020 will be retained for 2021, with typical reshuffling within the ranks.

So why a mid-July return when other sports – and golf tours – anticipate starting sooner? Here are two reasons.

Some elements of this revised plan remain in discussion, like how Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy and other season-long awards will be handled.

“As we look to the remainder of the 2020 season and ahead to 2021, we wanted to make sure that the athletes who earned the opportunity to play on the LPGA tour for 2020 have that full season opportunity in 2021,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “We are building an incredible schedule for 2021, thanks to our partners who continue to stand with us, and we look forward to seeing our players compete again soon.”

Whan believes the merged seasons offers the fairest approach to eligibility issues, given continuing uncertainty over whether the pandemic will require yet even more changes to the schedule.

“We feel players were not given the season that they earned in ’19 for ’20,” Whan said. “They might have some version of a ’20 season, but they don’t have a full season to perform under the categories in which they’ve earned coming into the year.”

Whan said uncertainties of what this season will ultimately look like creates stress that a merged season should help alleviate.

“It takes a lot of anxiety off the table,” Whan said.

Whan has made it clear that his priority is protecting the future of the tour with the decisions he makes through the pandemic.

“The only way COVID really damages the LPGA long term is if we allow it to by only focusing on 2020,” he said three weeks ago.

With LPGA tournaments working under a different business model than the richer PGA Tour, the prospect of playing without fans is more daunting to women’s events.

That remains a governing principle.

As the tour’s revised schedule is currently configured, the Marathon Classic is now set as the return, which is planned to be held July 23-26 outside Toledo, Ohio.

With the Meijer Classic being canceled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the pandemic has now affected 23 of the LPGA’s 34 events, with 11 canceled and 13 rescheduled. The Meijer Classic had been rescheduled for Oct. 1-4, before being canceled and the ShopRite Classic will move into Meijer’s October dates.

The revised schedule stretches from late July to the third week of December, with the CME Group Tour Championship (Dec. 17-20) as the season-ending event, following the rescheduled U.S. Women’s Open.

Other news in the revised merger of 2020-21 seasons for eligibility purposes:

  • Money earned in 2020 will be considered official for career earnings purposes but won’t affect 2021 status.
  • Winners in 2020 will earn winner’s category status, if appropriate.
  • Winners in 2020 will earn invitations to play the 2021 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
  • No local qualifiers will be staged once 2020 resumes.

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