Thursday, June 4, 2020

PGA Introduces Program to Give Top College Golfers Direct Access to Development Tours; ITA's Tennis for America Set to Begin; Sponsor OTZ Sees EcoGRIP Grow

On Monday the PGA announced a new initiative that gives college golf's Top 15 players direct access to the organization's development tours, which includes the Korn Ferry tour in the United States, as well as tours in Canada, Latin America and China.

According to this Sports Business Journal article:

"Beginning next year, top-ranked college players will be allowed immediate and automatic exempt status on the developmental tours instead of having to play their way in, providing a better chance for those players to eventually graduate to the PGA Tour. How fast those top players move to the PGA Tour depends on their performance on the developmental tours."
The article goes on to explain that professional golf doesn't have a draft, and the PGA official goes on to say that "It is no secret that the lifeblood of our tours comes from college golf.”

That isn't true of tennis, of course, but college tennis does not have a draft either, so it makes sense to ask whether such an initiative would be possible for tennis. It would certainly be a great advantage for a Top 15 collegiate player to go straight to the Challenger Tour rather than starting on the $15K and $25K level, and it would also keep players competing in top collegiate events(where they would earn those rankings) rather than playing so many ITF World Tennis Tour events in the fall. But as this article explains with golf, it took two years to put this together, with the PGA, USGA, R&A and NCAA involved, and tennis has even more constituencies. The USTA would not be able to implement it, given the large number of international players in tennis, so it would need the ATP, ITF or ITA pushing for it. The ITF would be the best organization for this, as they could also provide women with exemptions to the appropriate level tournaments, but they have demonstrated precious little interest in college tennis in the past several years.

It is interesting that this is confined to men who are four-year players; It appears that is to encourage top players to stay in school longer, which result in a higher level of play overall.

I'm not seeing why this couldn't be done for college tennis, but someone with power and influence would have to champion it, and I certainly understand that events in the past few months have made that unlikely.

Back in April, I wrote a Tennis Recruiting Network article about the ITA's Tennis for America initiative, which provides a year-long paid national service internship for recent college tennis players to work with community tennis programs. Less than a month into the pandemic then, it wasn't clear whether the program would be able to start this summer as planned, but although the numbers are reduced, it is going forward, with three fellows starting remotely next week at the Sloane Stephens Foundation in Compton California and one fellow starting remotely at XS Tennis in Chicago. Gabriella Hesse, who I spoke to for my article, will be starting at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland in July, along with another fellow, and two more fellows will start in August in New York. They had hoped to have 12 fellows in this first year, and unfortunately it appears that no one will be placed at the Border Youth Exchange in Arizona, which was hoping to have fellows this year.

The ITA has an update on the program, with who is going where this summer, in this article.

I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to OTZ Sports, a longtime sponsor of Zootennis, who is continuing to advertise here even with all the economic fallout from the pandemic. I exchanged emails with owner David Marcus today, and he told me the EcoGRIP product is getting more and more attention, while the band dampeners continue to be popular. With sellers in the UK, Germany and Australia and players from Cyprus, Belgium, Denmark and Australia adopting the product, the EcoGRIP has developed an international customer base, as young players around the globe are interested in doing what they can to be environmentally conscious when it comes to their tennis equipment.

As you prepare to return to the courts this summer, consider a visit to the website, where you can purchase the EcoGRIP and the vibration dampeners.


Jon King said...

I would say the idea would definitely not be for the women. Almost no female college players ever go on to become top 50 pros. Collins was a very rare situation. Females mature early and we know which ones can have a chance to be top pros by 18-20 years old.

The men I would still lean towards no. Guys mature later so college could help some. They can try some pro events after their freshman year, sophomore year and so on and judge when they are ready to go pro. Same if an engineering student would want to leave school to try opening a business. Students are free to leave college at any point if they feel they are ready to make money.

Not sure what staying 4 years in college and then giving direct access to the challengers would do. The college tennis programs do not make money for the schools. I do not see the advantage of subsidizing a guy's college training, then giving him better access to the pros than a guy who slogs it out in futures to earn his way into challengers.

College players, whether 1 year or 4, whether top 15 or ranked 80th, should then go fight it out in futures like everyone else. If their college experience helped them, they should move up the rankings faster. Free market system. But I do not think giving college guys a quicker path to the pros is fair or even beneficial. If college is helpful to a guy's pro goals, by all means do it, then earn your way through the futures as proof the college play helped.