• Game of two halves

    Women's golf money problems
    Are pro golfers playing the same game?

    Women haven’t had the rub of the green and their plight requires urgent attention to ensure a sustainable future.

    It should be a concern, and that’s putting it mildly, to even the average onlooker that a Sunshine Ladies Tour player will feature in no more than 10 events a year with slim pickings on offer with which to forge a career.

    Inequality in sport is a sensitive subject; too often pigeonholed with sex, politics and religion when it comes to taboo topics around the dinner table. It was this time last year that, at the second time of trying, a vote was cast in favour of allowing women to join Muirfield for the first time in 273 years. Let that sink in.

    You never know for sure, but the fact that the ‘famed’ club wasn’t booted off the list of possible Open Championship venues might have played a role, even if it took those voting two goes to get it right.

    But how long will it take to ‘get it right’ when it comes to what women golfers are playing for? Or, put differently, how many more years will it take for golf to join tennis in levelling the playing fields?

    As at the beginning of March, shortly before the first tee shot was struck at the co-sanctioned SA Women’s Open, Stacy Bregman (above) was on 1,710 points on the Order of Merit, some 370 points ahead of second-placed Nobuhle Dlamini. The points have no bearing on rands earned.

    A closer look reveals Bregman has earned R185,000 from six events and Dlamini roughly R50,000 less.

    How can anyone look at R185,000 in professional sport and think it’s enough to survive on when you take in travelling costs, caddie fees and general expenses?

    By simple mathematics, the position is even worse for Dlamini.

    What then to make of Nicole Garcia’s position? She’s earned just R83,000 and sits in 10th place on the Order of Merit.

    Let’s make some quick comparisons with their male counterparts for perspective. Firstly, Hennie du Plessis and Jean Hugo each walked away with R70,000 for winning the inaugural Steyn City Team Championships.

    Excluding George Coetzee and Erik van Rooyen, who finished first and second respectively at co-sanctioned events, in third place on the men’s Tour is JC Ritchie, who has added over R2-million to his account, with fourth-placed Ockie Strydom sitting on a cool R1.4-million.

    Every player above Jake Roos, who is in 50th place, has earned over R300,000 this season.

    Back to Bregman, who has played all six events on offer. Six events. Now, surely, you can see the need for drastic measures to increase the number of events on offer and the overall purse?

    The Ladies European Tour is the next step for South African golfers, but the picture isn’t any better on that scene either. In 2017, there were just 15 events and while Georgia Hall might have made 368,935 euros, an incredible 200,000 more than second place, that figure would translate to 109th on the men’s Tour.

    People often talk about ‘growing the game’ and one can only assume that means for boys and girls. A lot is being done around South Africa to improve the introduction and development of the sport for both sexes. The custodians of the game in this country, Golf RSA, also continue to do an exceptional job when it comes to providing the best players, regardless of their gender, with opportunities to compete in events around the world.

    Fortunately, there are a few sponsors helping these talented women forge a career in pro golf but the road ahead is long and filled with obstacles. Women’s golf needs more sponsors, more events and more prize money to create a brighter future for the abundance of talent, who’d like nothing more than to test their skills at the next level.

    Let’s hope bringing pay equality, or, at the very least, bridging the gap between the two, to the game doesn’t take as long as it took Muirfield to see the light.

    – The Big Issue is a monthly piece in Compleat Golfer magazine

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