Show me the dollars honey

Life as a golfer can be a wealthy experience when successful. But the disparities between tours remains a cause for concern.

Despite economic turn downs worldwide, golf tours have managed to survive.

Jan 15, 2017: At the end of the 2016 season, Dustin Johnson made more than $9 million playing 22 events with 3 victories. The number one player on the LPGA, Ariya Jutanugarn played 28 events to bring home $2.5 million dollars racking up five victories including a major.

Not to undermine Johnson’s exceptional season, he won two less as compared to Ariya in a lesser number of events. The difference in the year end windfall was $6.8 million.

A difference therefore of 72.76% in the earnings between the two premier tours in the world.

Notwithstanding the economic turndown, the tours have managed to survive. Essentially in layman’s terms it is about keeping 30-40 corporate organisations happy(read – their clients) in return for funding an entire week’s livelihood for the professional.

The men’s tour is expected to see some changes in functioning given Jay Monahan’s announcement as the new commissioner. The women’s tour which has been under Michael Whan since 2009 has seen worse days. In 2010 the total prize money was $41.4 million, 6 million lesser than the previous year. In 2010 there were 24 tournaments as opposed to 34 in 2008.

By 2016, Whan’s methodical ways had brought the number of events back to 33. The total prize money to play for was a little over $63 million, a rise of roughly 20 million from the previous decade. What stands out is the glaring difference in purses between the men’s and women’s games.

To contrast the two tours in brief – the women’s has shorter distances per hole, and the green speeds are said to be a touch slower. One man’s seven iron hit high up in air 200 yards is another woman’s driver 220 off the grass.

Blame it on the law of economics. Corporate America looks at the two tours differently. The viewership is different, hence the disparity in the purses – television networks ink contracts worth millions come the The Players Championship(richest prize in golf $10.5 million purse.) Not so much when the Women’s British Open Championship is on, where the purse is a paltry $3.25 million dollars in comparison.

Here in India, the Women’s tour is small – 17 events in 2016 for a field that varies between 15-25 lady professionals. The purses are small – a couple of lakhs per event and a $400,000 Indian Open. The men’s tour on the other end is once again better off. 25 events with 4 tournament purses north of a crore of rupees on offer, and a $1.6 million Indian Open.

Golfers are not at ease discussing this disparity given the already limited resources. A lady professional once proposed a possible solution. When I asked her about what it is going to take, she said golfers need to be seen the way cricketers and actors are – as stars. In other words, the game needs a female Tiger Woods who could have a similar effect to say what Kapil Dev had on cricket in India.

Others insist they are happy with the support – but at the same time have to think twice before flying out of the country for tournaments, given the expenses. There is also the danger of not breaking even at the end of the season let alone making money.

Worth thinking about given the context that the women’s game in India could yield more than just a single medal at the Olympics – if the sport manages to stick around for that long at the games that is.


By Aman Misra from Symbiosis

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