Still a long road for European women golfers
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
It’s International Women’s Day today. The fact we have to have one day of the year to celebrate half the population tells us how far we’ve come as a society – not very – and how far we have to go – a long way.
Women playing professional golf in Europe can certainly vouch for that fact.
The Ladies European Tour announced a record total prize fund of €19 million for this year’s schedule thanks to a tie up with the LPGA Tour that should hopefully move the European women’s game out of its previously moribund state. LET players have the chance to play 27 tournaments in 19 countries this season, including 23 consecutive tournaments. Great stuff. Yet even that schedule is a pittance compared to the money on offer for the guys on the European Tour.
Europe’s top men have the chance of competing in 40 events this year worth an approximate €160 million in total prize money, even with Covid-19 affecting purses.
The European Tour started in January, while those women not eligible for the LPGA Tour don’t start until May.
The gulf in prize money is even sharper when you drop down a division. This year’s European Challenge Tour consists of 25 tournaments in 15 countries. Total prize money has not been announced, but the Euro Tour’s junior circuit consisted of 25 tournaments worth a combined €5.9 million pre Covid-19. Most tournaments were worth €200,000. Those events carried a first place prize of $32,000, and most of those who made the cut earned four–figure cheques.
Compare that to the LET Access Series and you can see just how far apart men’s and women’s golf is in Europe. This year’s Access Series is yet to be announced, but in 2019 it featured 20 events worth just over €1 million. With a couple of exceptions for events co-sanctioned with the main tour, most were worth €40,000, where the first place prize was €6,400. Scotland’s Laura Murray picked up a cheque for that amount when she won the 2019 Rugenwalder Muhle Ladies Open in Germany, the penultimate tournament of the 2019 Access Series. Nine players made four–figure cheques.
Clear to see why it’s easier for European men to be tour pros than it is for their female counterparts: they can at least make a living if they play half decently on the European Challenge Tour, yet women have to play out of their skin to make a living on the Access Tour. It’s not cheap living out of a suitcase when you’ve got the same bills for hotels, air fares, meals, etc., as players on the regular tour but playing for a fraction of the prize money. No wonder former prominent women amateurs have to give up on their dreams of becoming successful tour pros.
European men have always had an easier time honing their games for life on tour through mini circuits like the EuroPro Tour, Jamega Tour, Alps Tour, TP Tour, and others operating in Continental Europe. The equivalent just hasn’t existed for women. It’s only in the past season or so that mini tours have opened their entry books to aspiring women tour pros.
So by all means let’s celebrate International Women’s Day, but let’s not forget we still have a long road ahead to create a level playing field for women playing professional golf.
#JustSaying: “I think some other girls are thinking of doing the same thing (quitting) but it’s a really tough decision to make.” Scotland’s Sally Watson in 2017 on deciding to quit professional golf to return to university