Tait: Golf’s gender pay gap stands out in Europe

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Tait: Golf’s gender pay gap stands out in Europe

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Tait: Golf’s gender pay gap stands out in Europe

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It’s hard to believe we just celebrated International Women’s Day yet the gender pay gap between men and women in European golf is as wide as ever.

Sadly, it doesn’t look as if it will narrow anytime soon, despite the best efforts of many.

Meg MacLaren successfully defended the Ladies European Tour’s Women’s New South Wales Open just outside the Australian capital Canberra. The former Florida International player earned $15,853 for the victory. First place this week in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters was worth $291,660.

Total prize money in Qatar, a weak-field European Tour event, was $1.75 million. The Women’s NSW Open carried a total prize fund of just under $106,000. Yes, it’s a bottom-of-the-food-chain LET event, but prize money for average LET events isn’t exactly eye-watering. Run-of-the-mill events average about $285,000.

MacLaren will turn a profit on her trip down under. Many won’t, even those who finish inside the top 10. Those sharing fifth place picked up $3,357.

Scotland’s Carly Booth finished joint 12th and took home just over $2,000. By the time Booth has paid her airfare from her home in Comrie in the Scottish Highlands, caddie, hotel and meals, she’s probably out of pocket. No wonder European stars such as Charley Hull and Georgia Hall play mainly on the LPGA Tour. It’s also no surprise to see players quit the tour to take up other means of employment.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has spent much of his time in office – he took over from Peter Dawson in 2015 – trying to get more women and girls into golf. He’s to be commended for that, but he’s facing an uphill struggle, especially in his own backyard. Latest figures show that adult women account for just 12 percent of registered golfers (those belonging to a golf club) in Scotland and Wales, according to KPMG’s Golf Participation Report for Europe 2018. It’s 13 percent in England. That’s a long way behind Ireland, where adult women account for 20 percent. It’s also a long way behind European countries such as Austria and Germany, where women account for 35 and 34 percent, respectively, of the number of registered golfers.

Sadly, the percentage of adult women playing golf in Great Britain hasn’t changed in 10 years, a decade that has seen the total number of golfers fall significantly. According to the latest KPMG figures, there were 1,071,653 registered golfers in Great Britain & Ireland in 2017. That’s 297,895 less than there were in 2010.

Is there a correlation between the low percentage of adult women golfers and the vast gender pay gap that exists in professional golf? Who knows? But it certainly doesn’t help the situation.

The R&A head is in a position to do something about it. His organization is responsible for the men’s and women’s British Opens. Prize money for both 2019 events hasn’t been announced, but last year’s men’s British Open carried a total pot of $10.25 million compared to $3.25 million for the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

In an ideal world, both tournaments would carry equal prize money. We’re a long way from that, as Slumbers admitted.

“It’s not simply increasing the prize money that’s the issue,” Slumbers said. “The issue is how do we get more women playing golf.  Professional golf is a business.  Part of that business – part of the reason why on the men’s tour and the women’s tour they can play for a living is because there is a large amateur game that spends money on the sport and invests in the sport and allows TV coverage, radio coverage and all that sort of thing, which is why we get prize money.  And we need to improve the pyramid underneath the women’s game, and so it’s not just a case of adding prize money in at the top.”

In other words, don’t expect the gender pay gap to narrow anytime soon. Pity, because European women deserve better. Much better. Gwk

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