While the remuneration on golf’s top tour has been steadily melting up over the past two decades, its top feeder tour’s pace of prize money increases has lagged behind.
That is about to change as the Korn Ferry Tour is increasing their minimum tournament payouts by a whopping 66.7% over the next two years. The current low bar for purses on the gateway to the PGA Tour is $600,000 but that figure will plump up to $750,000 next year and reach a tidy $1 million sum in 2023.
The regular season ending Pinnacle Bank Championship, after which the top 25 players in the standings punch a ticket to the PGA Tour, is also upping the ante. This season the purse at the Omaha event is $750,000 and that number is set to move on up to $850,000 next year and then up to $1.25 million in 2023.
Playoff prize money is also being super sized. The three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events, where another 25 PGA Tour cards are up for grabs, will go from divvying out $1 million per tournament to $1.5 million in 2023.
“The Korn Ferry Tour continues to play a massive role in delivering a pipeline of future stars to the PGA Tour on a consistent basis,” Korn Ferry Tour president Alex Baldwin said. She added that the announcement is, “another step in ensuring the tour will continue to attract the best young talent while providing higher-quality playing opportunities for the entire membership.”
“The game has always been a meritocracy, but it’s nice to see that that good play will be rewarded a little bit more over the course of a season,” Korn Ferry Tour Player Advisory Council chairman Scott Langley said.
The increases were actually approved a year ago by the PGA Tour policy board but the implementation was delayed as a result of the pandemic.
In 2019 Korn Ferry Tour money leader Scottie Scheffler played in 20 events, topped the leaderboard twice, and banked $565,338. Transpose Scheffler’s earnings over to the top tour and his final tally wouldn’t even put him inside the top 150 on the money list.
Then disparity is even more pronounced when you scroll down the money list. Take the example of Will Zalatoris who finished 59th on the Korn Ferry Tour that season. The dead ringer for Happy Gilmore’s caddie made $101,287 for his performance, around half of what he earned a couple years later for finishing 21st at the 2021 Players Championship and a mere 3% of what he’s taken in so far this season through 16 events.
The pay hike for the Korn Ferry Tour followed a similar bump-up in minor league baseball salaries as part of the MLB’s “modernized player development system.” The gap between the top developmental tour and the PGA Tour will always be massive—a minimum purse of $1 million per regular season tournament is on par with what the top tour was paying out in the early 1990s. But this isn’t the big show, it’s a proving ground. Bigger purses should nonetheless have the effect of increasing the draw of the Korn Ferry Tour.