Above: Dame Laura Davies travels the world for the love of the game, not money.
There are some glaring differences between the men’s and women’s games, but how do the female pros really feel about the benefits of being a male professional golfer?
The exorbitant appearance fees, the enormous prizemoney and, most pertinently, the loyalty and commitment of sponsors and corporations that all make for an incredibly lucrative setup for men but not nearly as much for women.
Both men and women play 72 holes to win a tournament and both possess extreme skill and finesse that is wonderful entertainment for spectators and TV viewers. So why is it that women’s golf struggles so much with corporate sponsorship and endorsement deals when the men’s game is so generously supported? What do female professionals really think about the disproportionate standings between the men’s and women’s games?
I asked two professionals to share their thoughts anonymously and provide insight into what is an incredibly divided sport in Australia compared to men’s and women’s tennis, swimming, AFL, cricket and so many other sports.
Both pros began by stating clearly that dwelling on the financial differences is not something they partake in. In fact, they are quite accepting and understanding on certain levels.
“Companies want to back the men’s tournaments because the men’s game generates far more exposure – it’s a business decision on a basic level,” Player A said. “Appearance fees are worth it; the top players bring crowds, encourage juniors and generate financial gain for many.”
This is certainly accurate when considering cases such as Tiger Woods’ $3 million appearance fee to play the 2009 Australian Masters. Tiger’s presence that week paid for itself when his visit to Melbourne boosted the economy significantly, generating more than $34 million for Victoria.
Conversely, in the female game appearance fees seem to be non-existent and there is an element of unfairness when it comes to the top lady pros. Our second anonymous female professional commented that Hall of Fame legend Dame Laura Davies, who has won 84 tournaments worldwide, including four Majors, has always been and continues to be a golfer fans love to watch and who has never been paid hefty appearance fees.
“Dame Laura Davies has always supported golf in our country and continues to give back to women’s golf in Australia and never gets paid appearance fees,” Player B said. “Karrie Webb is arguably Australia’s greatest golfer of all time and she is not paid to turn up and play in Australian events like the men are.”
The opinion of anonymous Player B is that women should be paid more and it is unfair, adding: “Women golfers need to stand their ground in terms of being paid appearance fees and sponsorship contracts.”
This is an interesting component of the game and perhaps female golfers aren’t as ruthless when it comes to marketing themselves and demanding to be paid more. Maybe they are too accepting of the lack of appearance fees and too ready to accept unsubstantial endorsement deals and undervaluing themselves. After talking about this topic to Player B, it became evident that female pros are quite happy to make their money solely on the course while men are making a similar amount off the course as they are on it. To put things into perspective, in 2009 Tiger Woods made $US21 million in prizemoney via tournament play and a staggering $110 million off the course in endorsements and appearance fees.
“Maybe the girls should be more proactive in pursuing contracts and marketing themselves,” Player B said.
Tiger Woods is obviously an anomaly as his results and marketability were both tremendous, putting him into a rarefied atmosphere. But the point is there is plenty of money to be made both on and off the course for professional golfers and most of the men are taking advantage.
Anonymous professional A had an invaluable insight into the marketing of female golfers, saying: “You don’t even have to be a great golfer these days to receive financial contracts in the golf industry. Some of the Instagram golf girls, like Paige Spiranac, are securing bigger endorsement deals than LPGA Tour players.”
It has to be asked: is this a savvy move on behalf of companies, deciding to market golfers with a sexier image, or is it wrong that they aren’t backing the true talent within the female game? I think it is a damaging decision to not reward the players that work hard to be at the top of the game. However, it is not rocket science to give endorsement deals to those who have eyes on them, and with 1.2 million followers on Instagram, Spiranac certainly has the attention of the golf industry and the power to influence golfers around the world to buy her sponsors’ products. Conversely, when you consider the men’s game, they wouldn’t dream of handing out lucrative sponsorship deals to second-rate players. The money goes to the guys at the top when it comes to endorsement deals. It’s another seemingly unfair attitude towards the women’s game that affects its top players.
It is fortunate that female professionals don’t harbour too many ill feelings or resentment around the unfair nature of the game when comparing men and women. However, it does need to be noted that our Aussie girls are supremely talented and deserve as much kudos and corporate sponsorship as their male counterparts. If they don’t receive the money they deserve for tournaments and individual sponsorship, the entire industry suffers and, to put it bluntly, there won’t be a women’s professional tour in Australia and that is truly saddening.
– Annabel Rolley is an Australian golf professional and host of Australian Golf Digest TV www.annabelrolley.com