The world’s top-ranked woman golfer, Lydia Ko, is calling for equality in prize money on the LPGA and PGA Tours.
“Hopefully one day it will be equal. By us being on tour and showcasing talent we can grow the game and make it one day to be equal between men and women.”
Ko told AFP in regards to PGA Tour/LPGA Tour purses.
In an environment where the LPGA Tour has struggled to maintain sponsors, and T.V. deals are meager compared to the PGA Tour, Lydia Ko’s hopes may seem like pipe dreams. However, that doesn’t change the fact that she’s absolutely right: The gulf in earnings between the average PGA Tour player and top LPGA Tour players is an embarrassment.
Lydia Ko’s $6 million in on-course earnings in 2016 placed her as the only woman among golf’s top 50 earners, per Golf Digest. She was 44th in the ranking…two spots below William McGirt.
Here’s the hard reality: Tournament sponsors are looking for a return on investment. The exposure generated by men’s tournaments, in terms of attendance and T.V. viewership, is vastly more than the LPGA Tour.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps that could and should be taken to work toward equalizing things.
At first blush, the example of the ATP equalizing pay for men and women seems like a positive example for golf. However, in tennis, men and women are playing at the in the same events/venues, which means, essentially, shared sponsorship. And the equality only applies to such events.
The PGA and LPGA Tours are, obviously, two different tours. Thus, men and women are not playing at the same events and are not profiting from the same sponsorship dollars.
What an amazing week it was at the @ftshootout ! Huge honor to be here being the 2nd woman. So much fun to play with the guys from all the way back, and to help out with some great causes this week. To get paired with @brysondechambeau for the 2nd time now was a blast learned some much from watching him play and all the other guys as well! Thank you to the @ftshootout and @shark_gregnorman for having me this week, it was an experience of a lifetime :)) and thank you to all the fans for coming out and cheering us on!
The most beneficial solution here, it seems, would be more mixed tournaments. And fortunately, the new PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, has seemed amenable to the idea in recent interviews.
An LPGA mandate?
While it may seem counterintuitive, if the LPGA Tour were to mandate something closer to PGA Tour tournament purses, perhaps sponsors would be on board with the initiative. And perhaps the PGA and LPGA tours could work together to equalize things on that front.
For example, offering a discount on PGA Tour tournament sponsorship if a sponsor agreed to support an LPGA Tour event with respectable purse.
U.S. Open, Open Championship opportunities
Henrik Stenson pocketed $1.4 million for winning The Open Championship. Ariya Jutanugarn banked just over $400,000 for winning the women’s. Wouldn’t it be great for the R&A or the USGA to take a stand at its championship and mandate an equal purse at its tournament?
And here’s the thing (at least in the USGA’s case): They have the money. Fox is paying the USGA more than $100 million per year over 12 years to broadcast the U.S. Open.
Set a precedent, blue blazer bunch: level the purses.