After Georgia Hall’s Women’s British Open victory, need for a stronger LET evident

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Georgia Hall of England walks down to 18th green during day four of Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on August 5, 2018 in Lytham St Annes, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

After Georgia Hall’s Women’s British Open victory, need for a stronger LET evident

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After Georgia Hall’s Women’s British Open victory, need for a stronger LET evident

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – England’s Georgia Hall winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open on a quintessential English links in front of adoring English fans lifted this year’s championship. Sadly, it also was a cruel reminder of the Ladies European Tour’s sad state of affairs.

It is Hall’s only LET appearance in a 72-hole event on English soil this year after none in 2017. Unless the LET seriously raises its game, Hall’s only English appearance next year may come when she defends her title at Woburn.

The 22-year-old was one of 12 Englishwomen at Royal Lytham. Legend Laura Davies was in the field. So too were Solheim Cup stars Charley Hull, Mel Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff. Three-time LET winner Florentyna Parker teed it up with rising stars Bronte Law and Meghan MacLaren. What do these players have in common? They need to leave England for the LPGA Tour to make a living.

They’re not alone. The LET is in such dire straits, most members don’t play in their homelands and have to leave Europe.

In her pre-tournament press conference, Davies summed up the 2018 LET with her usual candor. “It’s not good, is it?”

“We’ve not got enough tournaments to play, and I feel sorry for all the young girls.”

Girls about the same age as Hall.

There are just 14 72-hole, stroke-play tournaments on this year’s LET schedule. Most aren’t worth playing because the prize money doesn’t cover expenses. Take away the Women’s British, Evian Championship and ASI Ladies Scottish Open, essentially LPGA tournaments, and you have a group of events ranging from $110,000 to $500,000. Many are co-sanctioned events with other tours in the far-flung corners of the world, meaning the rank and file struggle to get starts. There are just four events in Continental Europe.

“How we don’t have tournaments in most countries, I’ve got no idea,” Davies said. She singled out Sweden, a country that has produced so many stars yet has had no presence on the LET schedule since 2015. England not only has no regular LET events, it’s never hosted a Solheim Cup.

The LET is reeling from Ivan Khodabakhsh’s disastrous four-year term as chief executive. The former World Boxing Series CEO was discharged from his post after seven events dropped off the 2017 LET schedule to reduce it to just 16 tournaments. There were 24 in 2012 and 28 as recently as nine years ago.

Reid has complained about LET players being so short of money and playing opportunities that many take second jobs to make ends meet. That’s nothing new. I remember talking to LET players 20 years ago who did likewise. That it still happens is a sad indictment of the LET.

Things were so bad last year the LPGA, European Tour and R&A each offered $2 million to help the LET get back on its feet. That would have gone a long way to fulfilling Davies’ minimum requirement of “15 really good European events – and I’m not talking €200,000 events, because no one is making money on €200,000 ($231,000). It would have to be 400, 500, 600,000.”

The LET board under the direction of player president Helen Alfredsson and chairman Mark Lichtenhein turned the offer down because they didn’t want to cede control to the LPGA.

“Obviously they just want to have a place because of the Symetra (Tour) being so over-full,” Alfredsson said. “They just wanted another place for players to get cards.

“That’s why we thought it wasn’t a viable option.”

Former European Tour employee Lichtenhein has said the LET could have 22 to 23 events next year. Alfredsson is equally upbeat.

“I know people are very impatient, but it takes time to re-establish relationships,” she said. “We need a tour where people can actually stay in Europe and make money. I’m very positive going forward.”

Let’s hope so. Future stars such as Hall need a viable home tour to develop their talents. Gwk

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