SOUTH PINES, NC – By now, you’ve no doubt heard the argument about why women’s golf “can’t” compete with the men’s game.
There is not enough interest in women, the thinking begins. So there are not enough fans who follow them. So there is not enough revenue to support serious efforts to close the wage gap. So there is no reason for TV networks to explode completely. So women’s golf is smaller than men’s golf.
And now, I’ve also heard about the responses. Men’s golf has reached its place as a conscious team sport thanks to the massive and continuous marketing efforts that have brought with it awareness and interest. Women’s golf receives less than half the hours of national television for men in a given year. That the entertainment product is just as good, the stars are equal in talent, and the competitions are just as – if not more – fun to watch. If only women had the same investment from stakeholders in golf, they would have been just as successful.
It’s like that old saying about a city on a hill. The point of the story, we’re told, is that the city wasn’t meant to be hidden. It was supposed to shine from its spot on the top of the hill for all to see.
But what happens when the city is on the hill he is hidden? At the USGA, there is a new solution: building a larger one.
At this week’s Women’s US Open, the biggest event in women’s golf will present the biggest purse in the sport’s history. Thanks to title sponsorship from healthcare giant ProMedica, $10 million in prize money will be distributed to those in the Pine Needles — an amount higher than many PGA Tour events, and just $2.5 million less than the wallet the USGA distributed in the men’s Open Championship in Torrey Pines last summer.
It’s a change the USGA hopes will provide a fundamental shift in the way women’s golf is paid out, paving the way for bigger risks, bigger events and hopefully a bigger sport.
Of course, the cash will not be injected a guarantee interest, ratings, or money. But some things demand a leap of confidence, and after years of successfully expanding coverage and scope, the Women’s Open was a proposition worth betting on.
“It’s really important that organizations like the USGA buy and raise bags,” Michelle Wee West told GOLF.com. “It raises the bar until everyone else has to compete with that and raise their bar.”
The Women’s Open is the place for Wie-West to end her football career. In 2003, at the age of 13, she competed in the Open for the first time. In 2014, she won her only major tournament here, at Pinehurst No. 2. Now, she will play her last professional road event at Pine Needles, retiring from the sport a week later to pursue initiatives to support women’s golf. And what better song for the sport’s most powerful marketing influence than transitioning into a post-playing career on the heels of the biggest championship purse ever?
“It is always really important that the first purchase increases the value of the wallet,” Wie-West said. “The USGA has done an amazing job over the years to always be those pioneers.”
Wie-West’s hope is for next one A Generation of Teenage Stars – A group led, most recently, by 16-year-old Augusta National Amateur Women’s winner Anna Davis who debuted at the US Women’s Open this week.
No player in the women’s open field is less affected by a bag jump than Davis. As a sophomore in high school, she’ll comfortably remain under her parents’ financial supervision for the foreseeable future, and as a hobbyist, she’s not eligible for a payday anyway.
But even if she’s not making use of money, she’s not oblivious to the role money plays in her sport.
“Especially with the US Women’s Open, it’s a very important event,” Davis said. “Obviously there’s a lot at stake, and it’s fun to play in something like that. The stress and tension that the girls have to experience – obviously not me yet – because they’re playing for a lot of money, I think it’s great. I think it’s a good thing. “.
Swinging Davis isn’t the only thing that transcends her years. She understands that golf is ultimately an interest-based business. And in this case, the tail will probably need to shake the dog.
“I suspect [the purse does add to the esteem of the event]Davis said. “Especially when they announced that they were going to make it worth a lot of money. I think there were a lot of heads turned, which is cool, because you don’t see many people who watch LPGA while they watch PGA. And I think that gives them something to look up and watch.”
Her optimism is not just youthful naivety. It was shared by a growing number of pros about Pine Needles this week. The pros can feel the hype surrounding the tournament, which will once again earn seven hours of national television coverage split between two major weekend openings on NBC.
“It brings more motivation to all of us,” Yuka Sasso, the world champion, told GOLF.com. “It’s great to have more fans and more people interested in women’s golf. It’s great. That’s why we play golf, we want them to watch us. We want them to say, ‘We can do something too.'”
But money, as a handful of professionals have pointed out, isn’t a cure-all for everyone. Nor is it a factor in existing things supposed To attract interest in sports, such as the quality of competition or the performance of the world’s best players. “I am very grateful to ProMedica for introducing us and supporting us in women’s golf,” Sasso said. “It doesn’t change the way I think or feel on the golf course. We are here to win and make history, we are not just here to make money.”
Lydia Koe agrees, saying, “Sometimes I think money can get in the way of the true meaning of a championship. I honestly believe that when there’s so much at stake, none of us will think about money.”
Koe’s comments raised eyebrows when she first said them in her pre-tournament press Tuesday morning, but on Wednesday she made it clear that they were taken out of context.
Of course money issuesBut the idea that women would somehow think about a salary — instead of winning the championship — is absurd, Coe said. (Not said: The double standard for this proposal appeared in the women’s major, but not in the men’s.)
“When we play outside, we don’t think about what that bet might mean or have to do with the money,” Ko told GOLF.com. “But to be on the tour and see the talent that’s in the LPGA, or even when we’re just playing other events, or when I see some group golfers, I’m like ‘Wow, it’s so empowering.’ I feel like golf has definitely grown and the bags are increasing, but She still has a long way to go.”
It’s an uphill battle to achieve true fairness in golf. A battle marred by controversy over coverage, gaps in pay, revenue and “branding”.
At Pine Needles, the galleries are a lot quieter than they will be at the US Open later this month. The footprint is much smaller. Even television coverage – considered the gold standard for the women’s game – would pale in comparison to The Country Club’s wall-to-wall relationship.
As the following controversy over the state of the women’s game floats, these points will always be used to explain why women’s golf “cannot” live up to the men’s game. These arguments are not limited to women’s golf or even women’s sports. They are arguments that have been faced, in many words, by women Everywhere.
Fortunately, the future of women’s golf is not determined by those who see it as it is not. The future will be decided by stakeholders, governing bodies, sponsors and of course, players. By people who made a conscious decision to fight for something bigger than a tournament, a moment, or even a $10 million purse.
“I hope one day you will reach the level of men, as in tennis,” said Lydia Koe. “And that may not necessarily be when I play, but to see how much it has changed from our founders and then our pioneers and then 15 years ago now, it just goes up. I am excited about where women’s golf is headed and I think we are very grateful to the partners who have consistently supported us and believed in us.” People who see what we see.”