'The FUTURES Tour and the tournament in Decatur have grown together over the last 21 years, so to make this tournament our first major championship is thoroughly fitting,' said Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the FUTURES Golf Tour. 'This is the next step for the FUTURES Tour and this gives players a reassurance that this Tour is committed to support their development, enabling them to be successful at the next level.'
In addition, the tournament will be contested over 72 holes -- making it the Tour's only four-round event. Tournament organizers in Decatur and FUTURES Tour officials worked together for several months to decide on a tournament format that would give the event the feel of a major championship.
LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty M. Votaw offered his endorsement of the FUTURES Golf Tour's plan to upgrade a long-time existing tournament to major status.
'As the official developmental tour of the LPGA Tour, we congratulate the FUTURES Tour in elevating one of is longest-running events to major championship status, the first-ever on the FUTURES Tour,' said Votaw. 'And, by offering a $100,000 purse, there is a demonstrated commitment to offering increased economic opportunities to its members. Throughout the years, the FUTURES Tour has provided women golfers with a competitive schedule for them to hone their game with the hopes of competing on the LPGA Tour. The Michelob ULTRA FUTURES Championship is a terrific step in this process.'
The prospect of hosting a major in his Midwest town has energized John Skeffington, Decatur's tournament chairman, who worked with the Tour to come up with something that would make his event stand out. Together, the two entities agreed on a definition of what a major championship would entail on the FUTURES Golf Tour.
'It would be very hard for us to take this on if we were only a few years old, but we've been around for 21 of the tour's 25 years,' said Skeffington. 'Our goal has always been to make our tournament better each year. We really wanted to take this tournament to the next level because the FUTURES Tour is such a great partner.'
Skeffington said the final touches are still being added to give next year's tournament a 'major feel.' He hopes to see the tournament become an all-caddied event, as is used at the season-ending YWCA FUTURES Classic in York, Pa. He also wants real-time scoring to become a staple of the event and plans to provide lockers for players -- a courtesy that is standard at LPGA Tour events.
With its inaugural FUTURES Tour tournament held in 1985, past champions of the Decatur tournament line up like a commencement ceremony for LPGA-bound pros. Tammie Green won the tournament twice (1985, 1986) and was followed by such future LPGA players as Denise (Baldwin) Killeen, Vickie (Moran) Odegard, Marianne Morris, Kristal Parker, Marilyn Lovander, Nicole Jeray, Angela Buzminski and Lorena Ochoa.
Three of the event's top finishers from 2004 earned LPGA Tour cards this year by finishing among the Tour's top five at the end of last season. The 2004 Michelob ULTRA FUTURES Charity Golf Classic winner, Aram Cho, was last year's FUTURES Tour Rookie of the Year and advanced to the LPGA Tour alongside Lindsey Wright and Malinda Johnson, runners-up at the 2004 Decatur tournament.