While Vic Open is a good thing for golf, where’s the clamour for equal pay at majors?
The $1 million ISPS Handa Vic Open couldn’t come soon enough after a disastrous week for European golf. A good news story is just what the game needs.
Co-sanctioned by the LPGA, European Tour and Australian men’s and ladies tours, the Vic Open offers equal prize money for women. What’s not to like about that, considering golf’s huge gender pay gap?
The disparity between the riches on offer in men’s golf and women’s golf should be more topical but hardly registers on the game’s Richter scale. The gulf was clear last month in Abu Dhabi. England’s Charley Hull (pictured above) picked up $38,000 for winning the $300,000 Fatima Bint Mubarak Open on the Ladies European Tour. A week later Ireland’s Shane Lowry earned $1 million for winning the $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Two tournaments, same country, but a financial chasm. It has ever been thus, especially in Europe.
The LET will play for a total purse of approximately $13.6 million this year compared to just under $200 million available to European Tour professionals. Those numbers caused British Open winner Francesco Molinari to rue the state of European golf.
“The huge disparity in prize money is honestly a bit unfair against the girls,” Molinari said. He wants to see men and women play together more, pointing to the European Tour’s GolfSixes as a way forward. The unique six-hole tournament features women against men for equal prize money.
“It’s good for the game,” Molinari said. “The format of tournaments we play is very repetitive, so I like what the European Tour is doing from that point of view, trying to mix it up a bit more. It’s a great idea because it would benefit women’s golf as well.”
Georgia Hall featured in last year’s GolfSixes alongside Hull and tees it up in this week’s Vic Open.
“Apart from the (winning the Women’s British) Open, it was probably the highlight of my year,” Hall said of the GolfSixes. “I love competing against the men.”
The contrast between golf and tennis couldn’t be starker, especially in the majors. There’s been parity in major tennis tournaments since 2007. Yet male golfers will play for approximately $44 millionin this year’s majors, compared to $19.2 million for women.
Of course, the difference between golf and tennis is that men’s and women’s majors are staged by the same organizations. Only two bodies, the USGA and R&A, are responsible for the same majors for both sexes. The USGA will at least match the $12 million it put up for last year’s U.S. Open for the men against $5 millionfor the U.S. Women’s Open. The R&A paid out $10.5 million last year for the British Open versus $3.25 million for the Women’s British Open and should match those figures this year. (The USGA and R&A have yet to announce prize money for this year’s Opens for the men.)
The R&A only started running the Women’s British Open in 2017, but the USGA has staged both U.S. Opens since it held the 1953 U.S. Women’s Open. Why there hasn’t been a clamour for the governing body to reward both sexes equally is a mystery.
The R&A has come under slight pressure to pay women professionals equally since it amalgamated with the Ladies Golf Union in 2016. But the sound of dissent has been a whisper instead of a roar. Expect the St. Andrews organization to come under increased pressure because part of its raison d’etreis to get more women and girls into golf.
To be fair to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, he has stated a goal of equal prize money.
“We absolutely want to drive up the prize money for the women’s British Open, and that is something we are working on,” Slumbers said during last year’s British Open. “Directionally we will go that way.”
The sooner Slumbers fulfils that promise the more likely we will see tournaments like this week’s Vic Open. Gwk //widgets.opinary.com/embed.js" />