For the second year in a row, players will travel to the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School more in hope than expectation. In more ways than one.
The 2019 LET Qualifying School is scheduled Dec. 16-20 in Morocco. Once again, those players who earn one of the 25 cards have no idea how many tournaments they will play next year. The LET has yet to publish its 2019 schedule.
It cost $1,450 to enter this year’s Q-School. Imagine getting your dream job and having no idea where, when and if you’ll be working?
There were just 15 events on this year’s LET schedule. Two of those – the $3.25 million Ricoh Women’s British Open and $3.85 million Evian Championship – were majors and basically out of reach for most Q-School grads. The $1.5 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open is essentially an LPGA event and also is off-limits to most Q-School grads. In other words, those who earned cards were playing in low-purse events.
By low purses we’re talking between a low of $140,000 for the Jabra Ladies Open to $500,000 for the Hero Women’s Indian Open. The first four events on this year’s schedule were co-sanctioned with the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Two of those were worth just over $100,000. You don’t have to be a math genius to work out that traveling to, and accommodation in, Australia isn’t cheap. Even a top-10 finish in those events could leave players taking a loss on the week.
The LET received a blow recently with the announcement that the richest of those four events, the $470,000 Oates Vic Open, has ditched the LET in favor of the LPGA for its 2019 event.
The LET is still reeling from Ivan Khodabakhsh’s disastrous four-year reign 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 tournaments in 2012, and 28 as recently as nine years ago.
During last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, English legend Laura Davies called on the LET to up its game. She called for “15 really good European events – and I’m not talking €200,000 events, because no one is making money on €200,000. It would have to be 400, 500, €600,000.
“It’s not good, is it? We’ve not got enough tournaments to play, and I feel sorry for all the young girls.”
That might have been an option had the LET taken a $6 million investment from the European Tour, R&A and LPGA. That money was offered in September 2017 and would have gone a long way to realizing Davies’ dream of 15 really good tournaments.
The LET turned it down because the board didn’t want to cede control to the LPGA.
“Obviously they just want to have a place because of the Symetra (Tour) being so overfull,” said Helen Alfredsson, the LET’s player president. “They just wanted another place for players to get cards.
“That’s why we thought it wasn’t a viable option.”
It might not have been a good option for Alfredsson and the LET board, but European players would have welcomed the initiative. They don’t really care who runs the tour; they just want as many playing opportunities as possible.
LET chairman Mark Lichtenhein suggested during this year’s Women’s British Open that the LET could have 22-23 events next year. Lichtenhein has loads of contacts throughout Europe from his time working for the European Tour, but going from 15 this year to 22 or 23 next season seems overly optimistic. Most LET players probably would settle for stability after a few disastrous years.
Q-School grads will hope to leave Morocco with positive news. The first step would be to tell them what tournaments are on next year’s LET schedule. Gwk