Why the Ladies European Tour needs rescuing and quickly
By Mickey Walker
Much has been written recently about the sad state that the Ladies European Tour is in.
With only two full-field events prior to the Scottish Open at the end of July before the Women’s British Open and Solheim Cup, opportunities for players to play some competitive golf and improve their ranking are few and far between.
There are six full-field events now left for the members to play in but with four of them being in Abu Dhabi, India, China and Dubai, the cost of competing in these is extremely high and prohibitive for some.
At a time when the LPGA Tour continues to grow the number of tournaments on the schedule, attract bigger prize funds and have more global hours of television coverage than ever before, the LET’s fortunes seem stark.
Although the story of the LET’s misfortune was first reported in a national newspaper back in June, I think that its plight has been highlighted by the fact that over the last few months the Scottish Open and the Solheim Cup have been played as well as the final two women’s majors of the year.
All of these events are co-sanctioned. Just before the run of aforementioned events, the former chief executive of the LET Ivan Khodabakhsh seemingly disappeared and then stepped aside and hasn’t been heard of since.
All of this just added to the sense of the LET being in disarray and in financial trouble. The LET has the infrastructure in place to organise and run tournaments as well as LETAS – the Ladies European Tour Access Series, which in effect is a feeder tour.
This year LETAS has 13 events, all in Europe, apart from one in the Azores and all are open to LETAS members. These tournaments typically have a total purse of €30,000 with the winner receiving something like €6,000, as opposed to an LET event having a minimum fund of €300,000 with €45,000 to the winner.
But in total this year there are only eight full-field events, which makes it extraordinarily difficult for a newly qualified player to improve their ranking or even to gain competitive experience.
There is no easy or straightforward solution. In a world where sponsorship is increasingly difficult to come by and companies have to justify every penny of their advertising budget, there are so many sports and causes competing for sponsorship, that it’s becoming harder, not easier to secure sponsors.
To my mind, our Tour was at its most successful when prize funds were within the reach of lots of companies and we had the stability and expertise of the PGA behind us.
In effect I think that aligning ourselves with a highly regarded and established gol ng organisation would be a big step in the right direction but we also need someone heading our organisation who is a people person, preferably good at selling and respected in the business world. It’s a big ask.
When I look at the times when the LPGA Tour made huge strides forward, they had individuals with these qualities who believed in their Tour. So suddenly things started to happen.
I feel passionately that the LET is an outstanding product. Ultimately many of our top players will gravitate to play on the LPGA as that is the most successful Tour in the world and America hosts three of the five majors. Players such as Ola a Kristinsdottir and Nicole Broch Larsen started their careers playing on the LETAS Tour, graduated to the LET and are now playing successfully on the LPGA Tour.
The LET needs to find a way to provide the opportunity for more of our talented golfers to realise their potential so that whether or not a player chooses to cross the Atlantic to join the LPGA or wants to remain an LET player will be down to their decision rather than necessity.