Lee Hodges of Huntsville, Alabama, plays a shot from a bunker on the 13th hole during the the 2020 U.S. Open in Mamaroneck, New York. Hodges, who ranks in the top 10 of the Korn Ferry Tour points list, is expected to play in the Live and Work in Maine Open. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

It has gone by many names since its creation in 1990, but the purpose of the Korn Ferry Tour has not changed: to develop golfers into tournament hardened professionals that are not only worthy of being on the PGA Tour, but ready to be successful on the tour.

The Korn Ferry Tour is the world’s top professional golf developmental program, serving as the proving ground for up-and-coming golfers who vie for the 50 new PGA Tour cards allotted each year.

Korn Ferry Tour alumni make up over 75 percent of the PGA Tour’s current membership, winning more than 550 PGA Tour events and 24 major championships. Notable alumni include major winners Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson.

“Our mission is to identify, prepare and transition the next generation of PGA stars,” said Alex Baldwin, the Korn Ferry Tour president.

This week the Korn Ferry Tour comes to Falmouth Country Club for the Live and Work in Maine Open, marking the tour’s first stop in Maine since a four-year run from 1990-93 at the Woodlands Club when it was known as the Ben Hogan Tour (1990-92) and the Nike Tour (1993-99). The tour has also been called Buy.com (200-2002), Nationwide (2003-12), and Web.com (mid-season 2012-2019).

Gaining a PGA Tour card is potentially worth millions annually. In 2019, 114 players  earned more than $1 million on the PGA tour, the fifth straight year there were more than 100 season millionaires.

The Live and Work in Maine Open is the 15th Korn Ferry Tour stop in 2021 (38th overall in the combined 2020-21 season). As they do at each tournament, players are vying to add to their season earnings and improve their ranking to secure a spot in the top 25 when the regular season ends Aug. 15, in Omaha, Nebraska. After that tournament, 25 PGA Tour cards are awarded.

Another 25 PGA Tour cards are awarded following the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Those tournaments are open to the top 75 players on the Korn Ferry points list, players ranked 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, and any non-members who would have earned enough FedEx points to be in the 126-200 range. Q-school, the former method of qualifying for the PGA tour, is now the means to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour

Of course staying on the PGA Tour is not easy. From 2017-2019 – the last three seasons when PGA Tour cards were awarded and/or lost – 60 percent of the newly minted cardholders failed to finish in the top 125 on the money list and lost their PGA tour exemptions for the following season.

When a player returns to the Korn Ferry Tour, at least they can expect to make a comfortable living if they play well – much more so than in 1990.

When then PGA Commissioner Deane Beman created what was known originally as the Ben Hogan Tour, the total purse for the 30-event season was $3 million, with most events at $100,000 total. Jeff Maggert was the money leader in the first season with $108,000 earned, which included three wins.

In 2021, the minimum purse at each event is $600,000, with the winner’s share set at $108,000. By 2023, each regular-season event will have a minimum purse of $1 million, increasing the winner’s share to $180,000.

PONDER THESE STATS: Remember the old PGA Tour promo that touted, “These guys are good.” Well, so are the Korn Ferry pros. Consider these two stats (as of June 14) and you might agree Korn Ferry pros are very good, too.

Overall, Korn Ferry Tour players shoot birdie or better on 22.07 percent of all holes, making 3.85 birdies per round on average. The tour average driving distance is 300.0 yards.

NOTES: Because of the pandemic there were no Korn Ferry Tour graduates to the PGA Tour in 2020. But Will Zalatoris has represented the Korn Ferry Tour well. Zalatoris was granted a spot in last September’s U.S. Open as the Korn Ferry Tour points leader. He finished tied for sixth, then in the top 10 in his next PGA Tour start to earn a special temporary status on the big circuit. Since then Zalatoris has finished second at the Masters, tied for eighth at the PGA Championship and earned over $3.4 million in 20 events. … The Korn Ferry Tour has maintained its immediate path for promotion for a player who wins three times during the extended 2020-21 campaign. On June 13, Mito Pereira of Santiago, Chile, became the 12th player in the tour’s 32-year history – and first since 2016 – to earn the Three Victory Promotion when he won for a second straight week. As of June 13, four players have two Korn Ferry Tour wins this season: points and money leader Stephan Jaeger, Davis Riley, Jared Wolfe and Cameron Young. Jaeger has twice lost in a playoff in his bid for a third win, most recently on June 6 to Pereira.


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