Tait: Money earned in golf is mind-boggling

Luke Donald

Luke Donald

Anyone else feeling a little uneasy about the amount of money swishing around in professional golf these days?

I am.

While many are struggling in these austere economic times, big-name tour professionals still seem to be coining it in. They don’t seem to be living in the same world as the rest of us.

How many of us can point to a salary increase in recent years? Very few. Even those lucky enough to get salary increases won’t be much better off, because it’s almost a sure bet the increase won’t match inflation.

Yet look at the money lists of the professional tours, and you wouldn’t know we were in dire economic times.

Eighty-nine players on the PGA Tour earned more than $1 million this year. D.J. Trahan took the 125th card, the last guy to qualify for 2012 Tour membership. Trahan earned $668,166 for finishing last. How many people reading this would gladly take that sort of money to finish last?

Bobby Gates earned $666,735 for finishing 126th and isn’t guaranteed a steady job next season. Imagine telling friends and family you earned $666,735 and failed!

The money in Europe isn’t as good as it is on the PGA Tour, but it’s still pretty good for hitting a little white ball around green, manicured fields. Twenty-seven players on the European Tour have earned more than $1 million, or approximately the equivalent of €725,000.

Even last-place money in Europe is pretty good. Welshman Philip Price holds 116th place on the money list, one spot out of getting an automatic card for next year, and he’s earned €234,172 (approximately $323,000).

The LPGA might not attract the same sponsors and purses as the men’s game, but its members aren't exactly hurting, either. Sixty-seven players have earned more than $100,000 this year. In Europe, 25 women's players have earned more than $100,000. Most people would gladly stress over 4-foot putts to earn that kind of money per year.

As for the star players, well, there is just no recession for them.

Luke Donald wants to become the first man to win the money list on both sides of the Atlantic. He earned $6,683,214 on this year’s PGA Tour. He’s made €3,856,394 so far in Europe. Those who think those figures are obscene can take comfort in the fact there’s an amount of doubling up since both the Euro and PGA tours count money earned in the majors and WGC events.

Still, by my rudimentary math, it means he’s earned more than $9 million in prize money alone so far this year. Imagine what he’s also earned in endorsements, bonuses, appearance fees, company outings, etc.

And Donald isn’t going to attract the same sort of appearance fees as, say, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter and others. These boys are making money so fast, they would make the average person’s head turn.

And good luck to them. Wouldn’t we all jump at the chance to earn that kind of dough? Yes.

But how long will it continue? Surely in this stringent economic climate, there has to come a time when someone says enough is enough. How can we possibly justify the vast amounts of money golfers in particular, and sports stars in general, make when so many are losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet?

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