Revenue generated within the sport is the key to equal prizemoney.
In a perfect world, we would see equal pay in male and female professional golf but that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. At a time when most golf clubs are moving to equal memberships with equal rights and equal fees, you might wonder why there is such a disparity of pay at the top of the game in the professional ranks. It all comes back to revenue generated within the sport. In essence, it boils down to marketing and revenue generated by the game itself.
Some professional sports, such as soccer, work on player income as part of total revenue and it is often a good way to break down players’ value. Men’s soccer generates an exorbitant figure, with FIFA reporting annual revenue of $6.4 billion and women’s soccer annual revenue is reportedly $130 million. The way FIFA structures pay for players is by using percentages, and this is where it gets interesting for soccer. The men receive 7 percent of total revenue for salaries and the women 20 percent. There is still a chasm between the two as the men’s game generates so much more revenue, however, they have a system in place. That system has recently been challenged legally by female players in an effort to even up pay for men and women. Tennis has equal pay in the Grand Slams and although the women don’t play five sets as the men do, they generate similar revenue to the men’s game, which is one of the reasons prizemoney was equalled.
The PGA Tour’s annual revenue is a staggering $2 billion compared to the LPGA Tour, which estimates its annual revenue at $18.5 million. The disparity in total revenue results in most LPGA Tour winners taking home a cheque that is about 30 percent of the amount PGA Tour victors receive.
One might wonder if the reason for this huge revenue difference is whether the men are twice as good as the women, but statistics prove otherwise. If you look closely at the top 10 men and women in golf, and analyse their scoring averages and birdies made, you will realise they perform equally. The top 10 players in scoring average on the LPGA Tour are shooting 69.76 per round and the top 10 in birdie average are making 4.36 per round. The top 10 in scoring on the PGA Tour are firing 69.34 per round and the top 10 in birdies are dropping 4.61 every 18 holes. The only difference is the length of the courses played, which is relative to how far males and females hit the ball.
There is a strong argument to put forward when it comes to supporting greater earnings for the women’s tour. The LPGA Tour players are tenacious, skilful, attractive athletes who possess all the same attributes and dedication as the men and, unlike tennis, play the same number of holes as the men for their money. So why can’t we just alter this gender inequality of pay and have the powers that be move the marker and increase LPGA purses? Well, it all comes back to total revenue generated by the sport. At a time when equality has never been so desired, there should not be an acceptance that ‘business is business’ and for LPGA Tour players – despite their abilities and their marketability – to bank only one-tenth what the men earn. I am not suggesting a shift to equal pay but there could be an increase in the percentage of revenue allocated to purses, just like in the women’s soccer league.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: how much does your average LPGA Tour player make compared to the average PGA Tour player? In 2019 the highest money earner on the PGA Tour was Brooks Koepka, who made $US9.7 million in prizemoney. If we include FedEx Cup bonus money, Rory McIlroy was the leading money earner with more than $US22 million. In stark contrast, the highest money earner on the LPGA Tour in 2019 was Jin Young Ko, who banked almost one-third of Koepka’s earnings (and one-tenth of McIlroy’s earnings), with $US2.7m. It is interesting to note that the 100th best male golfer on tour made $US1.1 million last year and the 100th best woman $US127,000. The men take home almost 10 times as much as the women at both ends.
The difference in prizemoney is significant and enough to kickstart LPGA players into requesting change. After all, if the amateur game is headed towards equality across the board, why is it acceptable at the top end of the game to deal with such a pay disparity? However, as a golf tragic, I am somewhat torn. The realist in me says that maybe women are getting overpaid considering how little revenue they generate, while the golf lover in me says they need to be paid more in order to get more young people into the game. The only way young kids will continue with our great sport is if they know there is a chance to have a long and prosperous career.
Just ask Karrie Webb. If women’s cricket was paying increased sums in the 1990s, we may have lost her and many other elite golfers to a different sport.