October’s PXG Women’s Match Play Championship Creates Opportunity with Dr. Scott Fechter and Professional Golfer Sofia Garcia
(Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) – When St. Augustine chiropractor Dr. Scott Fechter signed on to play in the INK! Charity Pro Am in October, he set out simply to support a good local cause and maybe meet a few new patients. He had no idea that six months later he’d be walking inside the ropes at the 77th US Women’s Open Championship in Pine Needles, NC.
By nothing more than the literal luck of the draw, Dr. Fechter was paired in the INK Charity Pro Am with professional golfer, Sofia Garcia who was playing in the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, which supports Investing in Kids (INK!). Intrigued by Sofia’s story, certainly impressed with her game and won over by her big personality, the two struck up a professional relationship, with Fechter’s practice, Pain Relief Centre, becoming Garcia’s lead sponsor.
Golf has a way of bringing people together. Garcia barely made it to World Golf Village in time for the Monday morning Pro-am, having played late into Sunday at the LPGA Q School Second Stage in Naples (FL). Garcia finished second overall in that event and because she finished late, didn’t make the Pairings Party on Sunday evening at Murray Brothers’ CaddyShack. When her name was drawn for Fechter’s group, he was instead introduced to the potential understudy in case Garcia couldn’t make the Pro-am at all. She made it on time and playing the PXGWMPC and the INK! Charity Pro Am turned out to be a turning point for her in her career, and not just because she finished second in the Stroke Play portion of the tournament.
Women players at the developmental level, any level below the LPGA, really, but specifically in a tour like Ponte Vedra’s East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour, which created, owns, and operates the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship, typically earn less than $20,000 in a season. With the cost for women to play golf professionally exceeding its revenue opportunity, none of them make a living on their way to the LPGA Tour.
A recent @ECWPGT survey proved that 70% of women professionals work second jobs to make ends meet, and not what one thinks of, like being an assistant pro or a beverage cart attendant. Most work as restaurant hostesses and servers, as baristas or in retail jobs. Some are Door Dash drivers. Many work in offices. Some on the @ECWPGT even work labor jobs in places such as bakeries, oil refineries and on electrical service lines. It’s hard to practice efficiently and play competitively when one has a day job or her boss won’t grant the days off to play tournament golf, her actual career.
It is because of this scenario that Ponte Vedra resident Mark Berman created this @PXGWMPC in the first place. “Our mission with this event, and now the entire tour that it inspired, is to create opportunities on and off the course for these amazing women so they have a fighting chance to get to where they work so hard to go.” There are only three developmental tours in the US compared to more than 30 for men. Berman, who has been in the golf industry for more than 25 years, is no stranger to this corner of the golf landscape. His daughter, Hannah, who played at Ponte Vedra High School and helped lead Jacksonville University to its highest national ranking, is one of these players and he saw through her eyes – and schedule – just how little chance there is for these woman to make a living playing golf, let alone getting to the biggest stages.
While women and men both struggle to pay the bills at this level, men can make well into the six figures whereas the most successful woman at this level in 2021 made $33,000 – meaning she still lost $20,000 in what was a successful campaign. Berman added, “Creating professional-level tournaments with meaningful purses is what people see us do, but Sofia meeting a sponsor and having Scott in her corner emotionally as well as financially is exactly why we do what we do. We create opportunities.”
When a player like Garcia meets a benefactor like Dr. Fechter good things happen. Instead of being encumbered by worrying how one is going to pay the bills and play golf for a living, one can get to just focus on the latter. In turn, this creates the freedom to focus on one’s game, one’s dream and one’s future. With the solace of knowing there’s someone in your corner to help pay the $15,000 of annual entry fees and take the burden off travel costs, a player can thrive.
Garcia, 23, who played her college golf at Texas Tech, is the perfect example. With some of that financial burden lifted, in just her first season on the Epson Tour season, the tour that feeds directly into the LPGA Tour (whereas the ECWPGT prepares players for the Epson Tour), Garcia sits at 11th on the Official Epson Tour money list Race for the Card, with three Top 10 finishes and a T3 in the Carlisle Classic in Arizona. Finishing the season in the top 10 will earn Sofia a ticket right to the LPGA Tour without having to go back to Q School.
“When I met Sofia, I knew she could be a star. Her game and her personality are both very noticeable. But how do you become a star when the financial deck is stacked against you,” said Dr. Fechter. He added, “The more she told me her story – she’s not a wealthy kid from a wealthy family, and that is not unique to her – the more I wanted to get involved. We love Sofia and look forward to her continued rise. I’m glad we can be even a small part of her success.”
Garcia and women athletes like her will tell you that Fechter’s involvement is in no way a small part of that success. The financial freedom to play her best golf and the confidence she gained with her early success on the Epson Tour helped pave Garcia’s way to qualify for the US Women’s Open, the world’s biggest stage and the women’s game’s biggest purse at $10,000,000. Garcia advanced through the St. Louis (MO) qualifying tournament. And with that, Dr. Scott Fechter will be walking along with “his player,” now his friend, at the 77th US Women’s Open Championship, with his logo on her hat and her gratitude in her heart.
Said Garcia, “Golf is such a unique sport that transcends from only competing. It connects people from players to tournament staff, volunteers, and fans. It has been such a long journey for me and on the way I have met so many wonderful people who are forever part of my journey.” She added, “In this case, I have connected with someone who has gone the extra mile. There is the obvious thing of the financial relief but there is also the magical thing of having someone believe in you.”
More than 1,000 women attempt to qualify for the US Women’s Open through a series of 26 qualifiers held in April and May. Only 62 players make it into the Championship through this path, eventually meeting the other 90 who advance via their professional world rankings and other USGA exemptions.
Also playing in the US Women’s Open from the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship is Match Play runner up, New Zealand’s Julianne Alvarez. The ECWPGT has five other players in the US Women’s Open Field, including Gabi Ruffels, who was the first woman to play in the Jacksonville Men’s Amateur Championship, Alyaa Abdulghany, first-ever winner on the ECWPGT, Mariel Galdiano, Karen Kim, amateur Bailey Shoemaker from Dade City (FL) and LPGA player Isabell Gabsa, who sits on the ECWPGT Player Advisory Board.
About the PXG Women’s Match Play Championship
The PXG Women’s Match Play Championship returns to World Golf Village from November 1-6. A unique experience, the event features 84 of the world’s best non-LPGA players starting in a two-stroke play qualifier from which 64 will advance to the Pod Play Battle Rounds. The winners of each Pod will advance to Sweet 16 of the traditional Match Play Knock Out Rounds. A women’s initiatives collaboration, the Generation W Links to Leadership Summit presented by Baptist Health will take place on the day off between stroke play and the Battle Rounds. Investing in Kids (INK!), which raises money for underserved public schools in St Johns County (FL) is the tournament benefactor and Official Charity Partner. The event is sponsored by Founding Partners Murgado Automotive Bentley & Maserati of Jacksonville, SQAIRZ Golf, Access Golf and Baptist Health. Tickets are on sale now for just $10 and include a free beverage and a donation to Investing in Kids. More information about tickets, the INK! Charity Pro AM and the Spooktacular Junior Clinic can be found at www.pxgwmpc.com and followed at @PXGWMPC.
About the East Coast Women’s Professional Golf TourThe ECWPGT has a dual mission to create opportunities outside the ropes for women athletes and has aligned with women’s organizations Generation W, a women’s mentoring, and coaching organization, and Forehire, which creates connection for women golfers and industry companies looking for employees. Based in Florida, the ECWPGT is one of only three women’s developmental tours in the U.S. The ECWPGT serves the eastern part of the country and hosts Q-School prep events in California. Players come from 26 states and more than a dozen countries. Seeing through his own daughter’s eyes the limited opportunity for women to chase their professional dreams, particularly in comparison to their male peers who have more than 30 “mini tours” leading to the PGA TOUR, Mark Berman, with more than 25 years of golf industry marketing experience, launched the Tour in January to provide more playing and earning opportunities for professional female golfers. he ECWPGT is open to developmental professional players including those on the Epson Tour and Ladies European Tours and is also open to elite level amateurs and college players. The Tour will accept amateur players ages 15 and over on a waitlist basis as space permits. Visit the tour’s website www.ECWPGT.com. Follow at @ecwpgt.