"Not to mention the tournament will host over 60 players in 6 divisions" - Aside from the distinction between men and women, there are not 6 divisions. Also I believe there is only one female registered for the tournament, I may be wrong. 'Juniors' or 'Masters' divisions are purely an age distinction and not a skill level. So that basically leaves us with Open, Advanced, and Intermediate.
"If I finish in 10th place, having lost by 12 strokes...well then I have a pretty solid barometer of where I need to take my game." - You can get a good idea of where you need to take your game with a rec division. You don't need to finish in 10th and lose by 12 strokes. Rec wouldn't be playing from shorter tees in this case. You play 2 rounds, get your total. Get your place within your division. Then look at divisions above, and if available, below you. If you won rec and your score would have put you in the top 5-10 in intermediate, then you know it's probably time to move up a division.
Paying out deeper may compensate somewhat, but even if the top 10 places per division get paid out, it still leaves out those that would have been paid out if a rec division were available. So why not have a rec division and payout the top 5?
I'm sure I'll still have a great time as usual. Again I'm new to the sport and probably don't know all of the intricacies of a PDGA sanctioned event. I would just like to be able to play in a beginner division while I am a beginner. Thanks for the feedback and opinions. See everyone Sunday!