ProMedica Steps Up For Gender Equality; Women’s US Open Purse At $10 Million; USGA Saved From Itself
Thanks to ProMedica signing on as presenting sponsor, the USGA has found the funds necessary to raise the Women’s US Open purse from $5.5 million to $10 million.
Further, plans are in place to raise that to $12 million over the next five years, which would put it on par with the US Open (assuming the USGA doesn’t increase the US Open purse, once again placing the women at a disadvantage.)
Good for ProMedica. Gender equality is important. It also is a good business decision; women make eighty percent of the health care decisions in families. This sponsorship should be a good investment.
As for the USGA, it is about time. I believe that the long-standing gross inequality of purses between the US Open and the Women’s US Open has been inexcusable for a tax-exempt, non-profit that claims to represent the best interests of the game.
I understand that women’s sports do not attract the same number of eyeballs and advertiser dollars as men’s sports. That is, in fact, a terrific argument for why PGA TOUR purses are significantly higher than LPGA purses. The two are separate organizations and each must stand on its own economics. Perfectly reasonable.
The USGA is different, though. It is a single, tax-exempt, non-profit entity that runs both the US Open and the Women’s US Open (among nine the organization runs). There is not a men’s USGA and a women’s USGA; there is just the USGA. The longstanding, vulgar differential in pay sent a strong signal that our nation’s national golf organization did not think the Women’s US Open worthy.
It is the 21st Century, for heaven’s sake. Tennis’ US Open has had equal pay since 1973. If it wished, the USGA could have siphoned off part of what would go to the US Open purse to improve that of the Women’s US Open. I doubt that there would be any male players who would pass on the US Open because it had a $9 million purse rather than a $12 million one.
The USGA might have argued that lowering the purse would hurt the prestige of the US Open. If that is the case, what does that say about the Women’s US Open with its $5 million purse?
There is an historical sense in which the Women’s US Open has always been a grudging afterthought by the USGA. In fact, it was founded — not by the USGA — but by the Women’s Professional Golfers Association in 1946. The WPGA ran it for three years; the LPGA ran it for the next four. It was only in 1953 that the USGA decided adding a Women’s Open was worth its time and took over the tournament.
Not only did the Women’s US Open not get equal pay; it did not experience equality in the prestige of courses it was played on.
In recent years, corporate sponsors like KPMG, AIG and CME Group began pushing purses in women’s events higher. They also raised the bar on the quality of venues and on-site facilities.
ProMedica has taken it to the top step for the USGA.
I think it is no coincidence that the sudden leap took place under the leadership of Mike Whan. Before taking the reigns of the USGA, Mike Whan excelled as the commissioner of the LPGA, taking that tour to previously unseen heights. In his second year at the USGA, the women have reached near equality with the men.
ProMedica’s investment should have a cascading positive effect on women’s golf. This is a rising tide that should lift all boats. I expect to see other women’s majors increase their purses, with regular tour stops following after.
The increase in implied prestige from the purse is accompanied by a similar upgrade in venues. Over the next two decades the Women’s US Open will visit legendary courses such as Oakland Hills, Inverness, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Riviera and Interlachen.
A list of venues and dates follows:
|2022||Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club|
|2023||Pebble Beach Golf Links|
|2024||Lancaster Country Club|
|2026||The Riviera Country Club|
|2028, 2038||Oakmont Country Club|
|2029||Pinehurst Resort & Country Club|
|2030||Interlachen Country Club|
|2031, 2042||Oakland Hills Country Club|
|2034, 2046||Merion Golf Club|
All of this bodes well not only for top level competition, but also for the game of golf as a whole. Women are 51.1% of the population, but only 20% of golfers. In acknowledging the equality of women’s golf, ProMedica and the USGA signal that the sport is welcoming to more women’s participation.
More participation is something everyone associated with the game should want.