WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Jody Brothers saw a line forming outside the equipment trailer at the Epson Tour’s season-opening event in Winter Haven, Florida, and hopped inside to lend a hand. The tour’s new Chief Business and Operations Officer, a self-described golf nerd, started working at golf courses before he could legally drive and figured stripping grips would not only make life easier for everyone involved, but also give him insight into what’s best on a broader scale. An equipment trailer is only onsite a handful of times each season on the LPGA’s official qualifying tour.
“I want to identify what is the right thing to have on our tour week in and week out,” said Brothers. “Is it a trailer like that I need to find sponsors for and fund so they can be out here 22 weeks a year? Or is there an alternate opportunity to partner with a Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore or somebody with multiple locations throughout the country where our athletes would have access?”
Brothers carried around a notebook last week at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, jotting down ideas and concerns as he met players for the first time. Brothers even worked as a first-tee starter, an idea/dare that came from the Player Advisory Group. That too, came naturally.
“He’s hands-on,” said veteran player and three-time Epson Tour winner Kim Kaufman. “Super easy to talk to.”
Kaufman is a member of the PAG along with four-time Epson Tour winner Daniela Iacobelli, who said she could see the enthusiasm in Brothers’ eyes when they had their first PAG Zoom call.
Brothers, 53, came to the Epson Tour from the PGA Tour, where he spent nearly 16 years, most recently serving as Vice President of Business Development.
Why the move to women’s golf? Brothers said if he interviewed with 10 people at the LPGA, at least nine of them asked that question first.
“For me, it’s not about, you know, Mollie’s job or any other job at the LPGA,” said Brothers. “This is the job I wanted, and for me, it’s legacy.”
Brotheres was referring, of course, to LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. In his role with the Epson Tour, Brothers serves on the LPGA Executive Leadership Team.
Brothers has a sister who played college golf and a wife that plays. Being at a place where he felt he could really make a difference was important to Brothers for this next chapter of life. He comes to the Epson Tour with a contact list – both in sponsorships and club management – that should lead to results.
“I’ll say also when I was at the PGA Tour in sponsorship the last six years,” said Brothers, “a lot of brands were saying I want to invest in professional golf. They started with the men’s side, but said I need to do something on the women’s side. That was really encouraging. It was that that got me thinking about a career with the LPGA.”
Brothers has big goals for increasing purses on the Epson tour, which this season boasts a record-setting total prize fund of $4.41 million and an average purse size of $210,000. That’s up from $1.6 million a decade ago.
Brothers, who plans to be onsite at every event this season, said it’s too soon to share that prize fund goal publicly, but that it’s “significantly” higher than what the women play for today.
“I think the number of events that we host is probably appropriate to identify the top 10 players from this tour,” he said. “But they need to play for more money. That’s my mission.”
For perspective, when the Korn Ferry Tour kicks off later this month, the purse for the first event will be $1 million. The KFT, of course is one step below the PGA Tour, which is the same for Epson in relation to the LPGA.
The purse at the Florida’s Natural Classic was $200,000.
Brothers, formerly the Senior Director of Tournament Business Affairs on the Korn Ferry Tour, also has designs on decreasing what it costs to compete each week, whether that’s in hotel costs, entry fees or insurance. Before the start of the season, the tour announced Epson would cover yardage books each week and would cover entry fees for Q-Series for those who finish Nos. 11-35 on the Official Money List. (The top 10 players earn LPGA cards.) Changes to the Rules of Golf for 2023 require that players buy new yardage books that are approved by the Epson Tour Rules Committee.
Former Alabama player Kenzie Wright noted on Twitter in January she spent $16,826 on entry fees and yardage books alone in 2022. Last year, Epson helped cut the cost of entry fees each week from $500 to $450. Brothers wants to bring enough partners on board to drop entry fees to $250.
*not looking for sympathy at all I know this is a choice* but I spent $16,826.47 on entry fees and yardage books alone in 2022
— Kenzie Wright (@kenziewgolf) January 31, 2023
“Those are the little things we can do as administrators of this tour to make it easier,” said Brothers. “I want to make sure they’re out here long enough to fulfill that dream.”
Brothers understands from firsthand experience the grind of trying to make it to the big-time. After playing college golf at Cal State Chico, Brothers played professionally on the Dakotas Tour in the early 90s. When two guys in his group shot 28 and 29 on the back nine of a tournament, Brothers realized a playing career might not be the right path for him.
He played long enough, however, to appreciate how much the little things –like free yardage books – really do add up. Brothers remembers how grateful he was to the owner of a local A&W who wrote “free” on the back of his business card after a pro-am. Brothers could show that card the rest of the week at the A&W and get whatever he wanted on the house.
“He’s gone through the process of maybe not having enough money to afford a good meal,” said Iacobelli. “Or a meal.”
Now, as leader of the Epson Tour, Brothers is ready for a new kind of grind.