Last year Justin Thomas, the leading player on the PGA Tour took home $9,922,560. The leading female player, Sung Hyun Park won $2,335,883. It’s now been 10 years since Wimbledon was the last tennis major to introduce equal prize money. Golf is lagging way behind.
But this week the only professional event of its kind in the world took place in Australia. In 2012 the organisers of the Oates Victoria Open looked at why the female golfers were failing to attract sponsors and they decided to combine the womens and mens events at the same course. Men alternate tee times with the women and play for an equal purse – $AUS 1.3 million.This year Simon Hawkes won the mens event, Min Jee Lee repeated the win as a professional that she had four years ago as an amateur.
Golf Australia Chief Executive Simon Brooksbank says that the public loves seeing the finesse of the womens game and the strength of the mens game on the same course. Cheynne Woods, Tiger’s neice, played in this year’s event and was full of praise. “I loved it. It’s entertaining for the spectators to see a variety of groups and we appreciate each others sport. I think a lot of sponsors can learn from this, hopefully we will get more tournaments like this”.
European Tour golfer Richard Green said at the event “the Ladies European Tour are a hard working bunch of girls who deserve to have a job. Maybe this sort of format rolling alongside the men in some way whether on the Challenge Tour, Australian Tour or European Tour – it’s a great way to get extra interest”
Indeed, and it could be the answer to the Ladies European Tour’s dilemma, if only the men would buy in to the idea.
The way I see this is that it could answer the European Tour’s need to do something more interesting on Thursdays and Fridays in their events.
If they could offer the LET a 36 hole event on the weeks they dont have a tournament scheduled (obviously equal prize money wouldnt apply) alongside their own tournament at the same venue, and the men would have the weekend to complete their tournament, it would work. It would keep the women playing and showcase their talent to the public and sponsors. After all the men have amateurs to contend with at events like the Pebble Beach Pro Am and the Dunhill Links Championship, surely it would be even better to be with fellow professionals who can really play.