Nichols joined the LPGA in 2006 and served as Vice President for Tournament Business while overseeing the LPGA’s schedule until he was appointed Chief Business Officer for what was then Symetra Tour in July 2012.
In 2013, the qualifying round season contained 15 events and $1.6 million in prize money. This year, players will compete in 21 events for $4.5 million.
Earlier this year, Nichols oversaw a five-year title deal that made Epson the tour’s lead sponsor. The minimum portfolio level has been raised to $200,000 while the player entry fee has been reduced by 10 percent per spin (as much as $1,000 per player per year). In addition, the Epson Tour Ambassador awards annually $10,000 to each of the 2021 Epson Tour alumni to help them transition to the LPGA.
Even Shaquille O’Neal has been involved in promoting Epson’s new sponsorship.
“I knew it was time to hand the ball over to someone new as soon as we got on board Epson,” Nichols said. Golf Week. “They’re a formidable partner, and we’re just scratching the surface on what their participation in this Tour and our members over the course of the first five years will mean.”
Nichols, who left the golf industry for the corporate world, joined the Association of Professional Golfers after serving as the director of the 2005 US Open at the NCR Country Club in Dayton, the site of this year’s US Women’s Open.
“I don’t think people understand how much Mike has done in the evolutionary run of the league,” said veteran player Kim Kaufman. “We often talk about LPGA growth but forget how this tour has grown too. I played in 2013 and back in 2020 and I couldn’t stop telling people how much the tournaments and bags have improved. I know the team in the LPGA is going to find a great guy to replace him, but they’ll have great boots. Too much to fill it in.”
Last week, LPGA rookie Sofia Schubert nearly won the Amundi Evian Championship, finishing one-stroke behind Brooke Henderson. Schubert was one of 10 players who earned her LPGA card from the Epson Tour Financial List last season.
“Mike has been fantastic,” said League Commissioner Molly Marco Semaan.
“He’s been really great on the Epson Tour, and we’ll definitely count on that.”
This week’s Epson Tour event, FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, takes place in Battle Creek, Michigan. Child prodigy Lucy Lee, now 19, tops the money list with $107,241.
“I am very proud of the progress we have made as a team with such an amazing group of partners who are convinced by our vision,” Nichols said.
“In my first full year, the first round winner made less than $50,000 for the season. Next week at French Lick, the winner will get more money in four days than the top 15 event track player earned in 2013. And you can’t make that kind of progress without the commitment and belief of a lot of people in a common goal.”