'The gap is way too vast...it's a vicious cycle'
Eight tour pros give their views on the increase in the Women's British Open prize fund and what more needs to be done to close the gap on the men's game
Following the announcement from the R&A that it would be increasing the prize money for the Women’s British Open to $4.5 million, we decided to round up eight tour pros to get their opinion on golf’s gender pay gap.
We asked eight professional golfers playing at the Fope Invitational pro-am tournament at Golf Club Asiago, in Italy, for their thoughts on the R&A’s announcement and what more needs to be done to bring women’s professional golf closer to parity with the men’s game.
Here is what they said…
Inci Mehmet, 22, from England
“I think the US Women’s Open went up $500,000, so went to $5.5 million, and I think the Women’s British Open is the second largest women’s event. It’s great that it has gone up 40 per cent but I still get frustrated how people are celebrating over the US Women’s Open because the difference [to the men’s event] was more than double. I’m guessing it’s the same thing for the Women’s British Open. The gap, in my opinion, is way too vast. It’s frustrating as a female golfer.
“I think it’s a real vicious cycle. In my opinion, there is so much potential for women’s golf. The average Joe at every single golf club cannot, generally speaking, generate the same power that the men do on the PGA Tour, so, in terms of the potential for women’s golf to be useful, it is massive. I think the LPGA and maybe even the LET can do more to educate people back at home; having stats like the PGA Tour do, all that sort of thing – it’s better coverage. It all boils down to funds and sponsorship and, like I said, it’s a vicious cycle.
“On the whole, it’s great news it has gone up 40 per cent but it needs to go up more. It’s a positive; it’s moving in the right direction rather than the wrong direction. It’s not like we have lost an event or anything. It’s still good news, I’m just whining!”
Jade Schaeffer-Calmels, 33, from France
“I think it is very positive [WBO money increase] because we need to be encouraged for the rest of the tournaments in Europe and the rest of the world. In the USA, it is very different. It is not the same sponsors and not the same objective for the media. I think it is very good to have a major like the British Open. It is the best one, I think, in the world – the oldest one. I think it’s very, very nice for the lady golfers.
“It is hard to be close to the men [in prize money] because I don’t think it is the same. The strategy with the media is not the same and the game is not the same, too. I am very objective with that because I know the men’s game is very popular in the media and TV. I think the women’s game is coming slowly, but it is coming.”
Marita Engzelius, 31, from Norway
“Of course I think it is really good if the prize money goes up and I hope it goes up because the interest in women’s golf increases. It’s no secret that interest for men’s golf is higher than for the women’s, especially in Europe and in America, so I think we can’t expect the same level of money.
“In Japan, women’s golf is the biggest and, of course, then the prize money is bigger as well. So it comes hand in hand. We just have to do a good job to promote ourselves, promote the tours and promote women’s golf. Hopefully – eventually – it [prize money] will go up. Unfortunately, I never think it will be as high as the men’s.
“You have to promote it well and I think you need to do a lot in each country to promote your players. I think a lot happens when you have one player who makes a stand and does something special, a different personality – something like that. In Norway right now, we have Victor Hovland, who has played on the PGA, and he has just increased interest in golf in general in just a couple of months. Even though he is a guy, I think it’s good for everybody.”
Michele Thomson, 31, from Scotland
“Obviously it’s a great thing that they have increased the prize fund. I think it was a 40 per cent increase, which is obviously massive for us as lady golfers. At the moment, our prize funds aren’t the best but we are all happy to be playing tournaments. The closer we can get to the men’s prize fund, the better.
“I don’t know if we will ever compete for as much as the men. They are playing for millions and millions, but it’s just great we are increasing and closing the gap.”
Ines Lescudier, 27, from France
“It’s a really good step for women’s golf in general. The Women’s British Open is one of the biggest majors of all time, so having this one increase the prize money is a huge deal for us and I just hope the other majors will do the same and help grow women’s golf across the world.
“We are lacking tournaments, we are lacking sponsors, so having more people interested in women’s golf and wanting to help in anyway is obviously amazing for us.
“I do think it’s going to be hard to be equal to men’s golf because we are lacking TV coverage. There is a huge difference between women’s and men’s golf right now. Saying we are wanting to be equal; it’s going to be years before this happens. The competition is a bit harder for them because they have more golfers than in women’s competitions, so it is normal that there is a bit of difference but, right now, the difference is just way too big I believe. We have the same kind of day; we have coaches, we practice, so we should be paid a bit more.”
Stefania Croce, 49, from Italy
“I am very happy [with the increase in prize money for the WBO] because it has to be a job for us, so it is good that we will go out and play and earn. Lately, we have had a hard time so I am very happy and surprised about that [the WBO prize fund increasing].
“I think it’s a long way honestly [to reaching parity with the men’s game], but at least we give our best. We have great players on tour, so the only thing we can do is keep playing better. There are very good players and I think we can make money out of that – but slowly.”
Christine Wolf, 30, from Austria
“It was quite a good surprise when they announced it [WBO prize money]. I think it’s a good step in the right direction because it can be quite frustrating when you see what the guys play for every week.
“We do the same job, put the same hours of practice in, we do everything they do and we just don’t get the same out of it. So I was really happy when I saw the R&A put more money [into the Women’s British Open]. I would hope it changes their [other organisations] mindset or something to put in more money.
“I think it’s the first step. I think our biggest problem is that we don’t really have much TV coverage compared to the guys. I think it was good what the LET did a couple of years ago when we played Sunday to Wednesday to sort of fill in the days when the guys don’t play. I don’t know why more tournaments didn’t catch on to that so they could show our tournaments during that part of the week.”
Valentine Derrey, 32, from France
“I think it is great [WBO prize money]. It means that women’s golf is getting bigger in the world. I think it shows that women’s golf has some potential. It’s nice to have people supporting us and I think we can achieve as much as the men’s game.
“We need more media and more people that want to support women’s golf, helping us even though they might not get anything in exchange. I think there are a lot of people in Europe that have money and can be a part of it. I don’t think we do enough to put women’s golf where it should be.”
The tour pros were playing at the Fope Invitational pro-am tournament, held at Golf Club Asiago, in Italy, from July 17-18, 2019.
The two-day annual event, which is hosted by 2013 Solheim Cup winner Giulia Sergas, sees 24 female professional golfers from various tours, including the LPGA, Ladies European Tour and LET Access, play alongside amateur golfers who have signed up for the event.
There is a prize fund for the professional players, as well as hole-in-one prizes up for grabs.
After day one of the tournament, France’s Valentine Derrey leads the way after a round of 69. Scotland’s Michele Thomson and Kelsey MacDonald trail by two shots after carding rounds of 71.
In the team competition, France’s Ines Lescudier and her team are in front with 87 Stableford points, with Thomson’s team in second on 85 and the team led by Finland’s Elina Nummenpaa are in third on 81 points
For more details about the Fope Invitational, click here.
Founded in 1929, Fope is an international company famous for its Italian fine jewellery. The family-run business is based in Vicenzia, in northern Italy, and has 600 retailers across more than 50 countries.
The Italian brand has a strong association with golf, with American Solheim Cup skipper Juli Inkster, Spanish star Carmen Alonso and Italy’s Giulia Sergas all Fope ambassadors.
All Fope jewellery can be identified by the signature Novecento gold mesh chain, which helped Fope gain national recognition in Italy in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fope’s new Flex’it range of jewellery features dozens of tiny gold springs placed between each link of an 18 carat gold chain to make it fully flexible. It’s the perfect luxury accessory for the fairways.
Visit fope.com/en_eu/fopeinvitational to learn more.