Comparing Winners’ Shares At The Years’ First Golf Majors

Comparing Winners' Shares At The Years' First Golf Majors
Comparing Winners’ Shares At The Years’ First Golf Majors. Increases in winners shares at the ANA Inspiration (Dinah Shore) and The Masters since 1972 show a growing gap.

It is a sad commentary on the general state of women’s golf that the winner’s purse for the ANA Inspiration — the LPGA’s first Major of the year — is just 22% of the winner’s share of the Masters. In fact, the Masters’ winners share would constitute 70% of the ENTIRE PURSE at the ANA Inspiration ($2.8 million)

This disparity was not always so. As shown in the chart above and in the data below, winners’ shares for the ANA Inspiration (aka The Dinah Shore) and The Masters are compared beginning in 1972. That’s the first year of the Dinah Shore, although it was not until 1983 that it was considered a Major.

For this comparison, I used winners shares instead of total purse simply because the information was inexplicably more readily available. Winners shares on both tours vary between 15% and 18% of the total purse.

In 1972, The Masters’ winner was paid $25,000, while the winner of the Dinah Shore earned $20,050. The LPGA winner thus earned 80% of the Masters’ champion.

The gap was closest in 1974, when the Dinah Shore winner earned 91.43% of what the Masters winner earned.

By 1983 — the first year the Dinah Shore was considered a Major — the gap had widened considerably. In the Dinah Shore winner earned 61% of the Masters’ winner.

The pay gap has widened nearly every year since 1974. There have been brief upward blips but the trend line is certain.

This is not to suggest that some sort of government or legal intervention is in order. Resolving this lies entirely on the shoulders of the management and players of the LPGA. The Masters and the ANA Inspiration are two entirely different and distinct organizations, as are the vast majority of men’s and women’s tournaments. Tournaments must pay what sponsors will bear.

I say the vast majority because there are a couple of cases in which that is not true: The Men’s and Women’s US Opens, and the Men’s and Women’s PGA Championships.

The USGA has a purse of $12 million for the men, and $5 million for the women. I find this appalling. The organization which claims to be “for the good of the game,” and to be the representative of ALL golfers in the US, offers women less than half the purse of the men.

In this particular case I believe that the USGA has a moral (and perhaps legal — the women of USA Soccer at one point filed a suit with the EEOC) obligation to pay the men and women the same. The purses ultimately come from the same organization. The USGA and its supporters can argue all they want about sponsors paying more for the men, but there is not a Men’s USGA and a Women’s USGA. There is the USGA.

The USGA can argue that it’s what supporters want. But try this thought experiment. Would it be ok if the USGA paid African American players less than Caucasian players because the sponsors prefer Caucasians? Of course not. Why is it then permissible for the USGA to write a bigger check for the women than for men because sponsors prefer men?

Again, this is not a question of making the PGA TOUR and LPGA purses equivalent. This is the case of a single organization (the USGA), with a single (and very large) pot of cash and other assets making the conscious decision to pay women less than men from that pot. And then, of course, making myscognistic excuses about it.

To help right this wrong, the USGA should reduce the purse of the US Open from $12 to $9 million and increase the Women’s US Open purse from $5 to $8 million. That would still put the US Open in the top ten of all men’s golf purses.

Let us first consider the reaction of the male players when they find out that the purse is $9 million instead of $12. Will the players say “That’s it, I’m sitting out the US Open”? I’d be stunned if even one player sits out in a paycheck snit. It’s the US Freaking Open, after all.

Then, let us consider the potential reaction of the CEOs of major corporations when the USGA tells them that 25% of the money they pay to sponsor the men’s US Open will go to help subsidize the women’s. Will the CEOs say “Oh my God no. I don’t want any money going to the women”? Again, I doubt it. They don’t where the money goes, as long as they get the signage and the opportunity to wine and dine clients in a fancy tent.

Finally, will US Open spectators boycott when they find that 25% of their ticket price goes to the Women’s Open. Nope. That won’t affect their viewing pleasure.

Heck, it might even be a selling point.

I also do not believe that the 25% subsidy will need to continue forever. By showing that the women’s game is worthy of respect, the USGA will send a positive signal to sponsors. They way things are now, why should sponsors pony up more dollars for the US Women’s Open if even the sponsoring organization thinks it is worth less than half of the men’s event?

Elevating the women’s game is of critical importance to the long-term health of golf. Women are 51% of the population, but only 18% of its golfers. All of the loss of players that golf has reportedly suffered over the last decade or so could be recovered by increasing the number of women playing the game. Part of that will start with the USGA treating the womens’ game with some respect.

If the USGA starts offering something akin to parity, sponsors of the LPGA will be encouraged to step up their money games.

At the tennis US Open, men and women are paid equally since 1973. Wimbledon, the last holdout among Grand Slam event, equalized pay in 2007. Women’s tennis has a respect that women’s golf does not.

Tennis somehow makes it work. The USGA should be able to make it work as well.

It is time for the USGA to lead.

Chart Showing The ANA Inspiration and Masters Winners Shares, as well as the ANA’s percentage of the Masters winners share.

YearANA Inspiration / Dinah Shore Winners ShareMasters Winners ShareANA % of Masters

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