DECATUR — The Symetra Tour guaranteed what's likely the final Forsyth Classic will be a big draw for its top players.
What was going to be a $135,000 purse, on the low end of the tour's 24-tournament schedule, will now be among the top six purses on the schedule with $200,000 in total prize money, including $30,000 to the winner, tournament director Cindy Deadrick Wolfer announced Tuesday.
The Symetra Tour is the developmental tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The Forsyth Classic will be held at Hickory Point Golf Course June 14-16.
When the Symetra Tour announced its 2019 schedule in February, Mike Nichols, the tour's chief business officer, said this would be the curtain call for the event after 35 years, but that the Symetra Tour would be making an announcement that would make the tournament: "An unforgettable week saying not only goodbye, but thank you," Nichols said in February.
"The (tournament) will be bittersweet," Nichols said in a statement Tuesday. "While we will be celebrating the legacy of what that tournament has meant to the tour and the future of the LPGA stars who have passed through, it will be difficult to say good-bye.
"But in doing so, we wanted to make sure the last tournament was also the biggest the city has ever hosted."
Deadrick Wolfer said the tournament had planned an $135,000 purse — up from $125,000 in recent years. The local tournament will still provide $135,000, but the Symetra Tour will supply the remaining $65,000.
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"The tour, in thinking about the 35th anniversary and it most likely being the final one, wanted to do something special," Deadrick Wolfer said. "This was their way of helping us. The players always came because they loved our tournament, but this will perhaps be even more incentive."
Deadrick Wolfer said that while there are efforts being made to bring back the tournament to Hickory Point in some form, she's more "on the periphery" of that movement. She said this year's tournament would look much like previous years, though the tournament is still looking for additional sponsors. They recently received a $10,000 donation from IBEW Local 146 and the Decatur Building & Construction Trades Council of the AFL-CIO, which also helps set up and tear down the event.
"I'm focused on making sure this tournament is what we want it to be," Deadrick Wolfer said. "My plan is to still have the skyboxes, along with the tents, the galleries, the Par-tee ... . There are a lot of sponsor requests out there, but those are things that are special about our tournament and I want to maintain those."
The tournament, which is the oldest on the Symetra Tour circuit, has featured numerous players who went on to LPGA fame, including all-time great Lorena Ochoa, who won her first event as a professional at the 2002 Decatur event.
In addition to the larger purse, Deadrick Wolfer announced events geared toward women sponsored by HSHS St. Mary's Hospital. At 3 p.m. on June 10, a 3 p.m. ladies only golf clinic featuring tips on driving, putting and chipping with Symetra Tour players will be followed by Women's Wellness, Wine & Wedges, a program featuring dinner, door prizes and guest speaker Dr. Daniel Roubein, director of radiology at St. Mary's.
"It's a women's golf tournament and we wanted to give women an opportunity to come out and get together," said Julie Moore Wolfe, HSHS executive director of philanthropy. "They can come out and get some great tips, then enjoy the evening — no pressure to actually get the ball in the hole."