As LIV Golf dominates the news, LPGA players admit that almost “the whole tour” could consider a similar jump

As LIV Golf dominates the news, LPGA players admit that almost “the whole tour” could consider a similar jump

BETHESDA, Md. – Cristie Kerr calls Congress’ refurbished Blue Course one of the best she’s ever played. As LPGA players politely drive the Cadillacs this week, they dine at a huge club – with sugar cookies shaped like the Washington Monument – and compete for a $ 9 million wallet, double that of last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA, Stacy Lewis has a message: “In Our LPGA History, this is far from normal.”

The LPGA was in serious jeopardy when Lewis joined more than twelve years ago. There were 23 events in the program, and almost half of them were abroad.

“This current team of players, I do not think they realize exactly how lucky we are with the opportunities we have,” said Lewis. “I mean, they’ve been waiting for the last four or five years, that this adjustment this week is normal.”

Stacy Lewis makes a note on 11th Street during the KPMG PGA Women’s Round practice round at the Congressional Country Club on June 22, 2022 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Elsa / Getty Images)

Katherine Kirk, one of the few players over the age of 40 to play regularly in the LPGA, is worried about a “right attitude” pervading the tour. He looks back on what the LPGA founders themselves did in the 1950s to start this tour – promotions, course organization, decision making, marketing – and he deeply appreciates it.

“Compared to that, we have it easy,” he said. “We’re just going up to the tournaments.”

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said the total LPGA wallet in 1972 was $ 972,000. This week’s winner will win $ 1,350,000.

“Quite a remarkable development,” said Marcoux Samaan. “And even in 2021, I think our wallets were just over $ 70 million and now, being in $ 2022 over $ 97 million is really great.”

Of course, money is the talk of the town right now. As a field of 156 women celebrates the second largest wallet in the history of the tour this week, the stars of the PGA Tour leave their already lucrative tour for amazing amounts of guaranteed cash at the LIV Golf supported by Saudi Arabia. The endless news cycle of Saudi Arabia is already drowning the biggest headlines in the women’s game – even the big ones.

Asked if she was worried that a similar threat backed by Saudi Arabia could come to the LPGA, Marcoux Samaan said: “Listen, we wake up every day trying to make the LPGA top in women’s golf and make it the best tour. This is what we are focusing on. We have great staff. We have great partners. We have the best players in the world. “We are really doubling what we are doing.”

Regarding LIV Golf’s ambitions in women’s gaming, CEO Greg Norman recently told the BBC, “We are here to develop golf on a global scale, not just in one area, which is men. It’s everywhere.”

One week after the opening LIV Golf Invitational Series held at the Centurion Club, the Aramco Team Series London event presented by the Public Investment Fund took place along the same route.

The Saudi Arabia-backed Aramco series is part of the Ladies European Tour, which falls under the LPGA umbrella.

During a pre-tournament press conference in London, Saudi Arabia’s golf ambassador Bronte Law praised Linn Grant’s pioneering victory on the DP World Tour – where the Swede smashed a nine-touch men’s and women’s court – and pushed for more mixed events.

“The perfect example is tennis,” Lo said. “Why are women paid more than us? The reason is because they play on the same site and have the same media coverage.

“Therefore, if we can play in the same course, have the same TV coverage, there is no reason not to increase our wallets.”

With Golf Saudi already investing in women’s golf, many are wondering what might follow. Could Law’s appeal for more mixed events or simultaneous events with men and women already be on the horizon for Golf Saudi? And, if so, how many players would leave for the chance to win more money?

“Put it that way, I think you’ll see almost the entire tour doing it here,” Kerr said. “What we are playing for here compared to the Men’s Tour, the scale is different.

“But at the same time, KPMG has just raised its wallet to $ 9 million. We begin to see a rising tide lift all the ships. . It will be interesting to see how it will affect this tour. ”

Bronte Law offers a new perspective on the alignment of women and men golf.

LPGA player Sarah Kemp has to compete in a minimum number of LET events each season to maintain her presence in Europe and flying to New York for an Aramco Team Series event later this year would be awful. But Kemp does not like the fact that the money for the event comes from the government of Saudi Arabia.

However, she understands that women competing in the full-time LET have little choice but to participate in the six events sponsored by Saudi Arabia, noting that budgets are so limited on this tour, one player drove an Amazon truck during of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would be great to have some more KPMGs in the world,” Kemp said, “a few more CMEs who would like to support women’s golf.”

KPMG US Vice President and COO Laura Newinski said on Tuesday that they like the concept of pressure and momentum in game development, what it does to bring attention and awareness to the value of the product. USGA set a new standard with a $ 10 million wallet at this year’s US Women’s Open. Every major LPGA company has significantly increased its portfolio in recent years.

“As a sponsor, this is not a competition,” Newinski said. “It’s a come-along and let’s do it right up to the game in terms of what we put into it.”

Gaby Lopez from Mexico celebrates after winning the Blue Bay LPGA on November 10, 2018, on the island of Hainan in China. (Photo by Zhe Ji / Getty Images)

If LIV creates something new for women golf, Gaby Lopez believes she will probably stay in the LPGA.

“Only for my core values,” he said. “I do not really play for money. I really play to win championships. It’s more important to me. “

But he can see others see it differently.

“I think a lot of players will think about it because there are a lot of girls who are having a hard time, even on the sponsor side,” Lopez said. “I would not be surprised if the girls left this tour.”

When Kirk thinks about the possibility of Saudi money threatening the LPGA, she thinks not only of the tour itself, but of the LPGA teaching department and the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that has exploded in recent years. What about them?

“I just hope the players understand the consequences of decisions that do not only affect you,” Kirk said. “They affect the next generations.”

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