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  • Alistair Tait

Women’s best still drawing a blank

Can you imagine a men’s major champion from two years ago without a major sponsor’s name emblazoned on the front of his cap?

Thought so.

It just wouldn’t happen. Companies would be lining up to get said major winner on board. Afraid the same isn’t always so when it comes to women’s golf.

Georgia Hall, the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, looks oddly out of place this week in the Aberdeen Standards Investment Ladies Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club. The front of her visor has a great big blank on it where you’d normally expect a sponsor’s logo. To repeat, it’s hard to think of that situation with a men’s major champion even from five years ago, never mind two.

Hall has obviously profited from her fantastic win at Royal Lytham, when she became the first English winner of the Women’s Open since Karen Stupples in 2004 at Sunningdale.

Hall has club endorsements with Callaway, Ricoh, the Hendy Group and Agilitas IT. She’s an R&A ambassador. She’s done well but, without access to any figures, you can bet what she’s made from her major victory is nothing compared to what Francesco Molinari earned for winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie that same year.

Such is life for our top women professionals. The inequality gulf between our top men and women is probably as vast as when Stupples won at Sunningdale 16 years ago. As the Solheim Cup player said in a response to my tweet regarding the blank space on Hall’s visor:

“It didn't change my life much after winning…”

Stupples concedes she might not have gone on to become an excellent TV analyst if not for her major victory. However, to think her outstanding win did little for her bank balance beyond the prize money is hard to fathom against the bonuses that accrue when a man wins a major.

Stupples’ story is nothing new. Sponsors weren’t exactly queueing up when Catriona Matthew became the first Scottish woman to win a major championship. Her 2009 victory at Royal Lytham was one of the golf/sports stories of the year, perhaps of all time. Less than three months after giving birth to daughter Sophie, Matthew held off a world class field to join the major club.

Matthew didn’t even get a mention in that year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year, even though the Beeb broadcast the Women’s Open in those days. Matthew isn’t one to throw her toys out of the pram about the snub. She simply said:

"That was a little disappointing. I thought I might squeak into the nominations."

As expected, Laura Davies didn’t pull any punches:

"I think it's a disgrace. I voted for Catriona. I think she should have won it. But it's always been the same. The year I won two majors and 10 other tournaments, everyone said I had a good chance of winning it. I didn't even get mentioned in the programme.”

Not only did the Beeb snub Matthew, no company knocked on the door of Matthew’s North Berwick home to ask her to promote its product. Scotland’s most successful woman golfer had to wait a year before the phone rang. She got an endorsement just before defending her Women’s Open crown. Aberdeen Asset Management, the previous name of this week’s Scottish Ladies Open sponsor, signed her up to wear its logo on her cap – for just two weeks. In typical Matthew understatement, she said:

"It's a tough climate at the moment,"

IMG’s former head of European golf Guy Kinnings put things in perspective:

"If Luke Donald wins a major he would have the option of earning millions. Catriona didn't."

Seems things have hardly changed since then, and when Stupples became a major champion all those years ago.

#JustSaying: “One of my mates thought I was dead because she saw my picture on the front page of the Daily Mirror (after buying a BMW 850). What I find annoying is not that I made the front pages for that, it’s more to do with how little space you get when you win two major championships as I’ve done this year. If Monty or Faldo had won two majors in 1996, they’d be royalty by now.” Laura Davies

Photograph courtesy of Ladies European Tour

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