Home Tennis As majors continue to increase their purses, equal pay gets closer

As majors continue to increase their purses, equal pay gets closer

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The champion of the ANA Inspiration makes the leap into Poppie’s Pond next to the 18th green. Jin Young Ko leaps in with her caddie and manager.
Palm Springs Desert Sun

If you listened carefully in the aftermath of the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s victory over the Netherlands in the Women’s World Cup finals, you could hear a chant from the crowd of “Equal pay! Equal pay!”

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Equal pay is a familiar cry in women’s sports, and if any team deserves equal pay – or more – it’s the women’s soccer team. In other sports, it can be tough for women. A few tennis tournaments do provide equal pay when the men and women play at the same time – the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells is a great local example. But such examples are few and far between.

In golf, equal pay is tougher. Women’s golf doesn’t get the same television ratings or the same sponsorship money that men’s golf events attract. Still, there has been movement on purses for women, and the latest news comes this week from the Royal and Ancient, which runs the AIG Women’s British Open.

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The R and A will raise the purse money for the Women’s British, one of women’s golf’s five major championships, to $4.5 million this year. That is a significant jump from the $3.25 million the championship paid out in 2018.

You can make comparisons, either to other women’s tournaments or to men’s tournaments. The U.S. Women’s Open has a $5.5 million purse, with $1 million going to the winner. The Women’s British Open will award $675,000 to its winner in August. The ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, the first major of the year, offers a $3 million purse. All of those numbers are up from 2018.

But the men’s British Open has a $10.75 million purse, or more than the U.S. Women’s Open and the Women’s British Open combined. So equal pay remains far away for women’s golfers.

Still, there has been progress for women’s golfers. The majors are adding more money seemingly every year. The tour is also adding new tournaments, especially at the start of the 2020 season, and that means more purse money for players.

Jeongeun Lee6 after winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Country Club of Charleston on June 2, 2018. Photo: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

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But the marketplace, more than gender equality, controls the pay gap between men’s and women’s sports. Yes, perhaps a better television deal would add money to purses in women’s golf, but women’s tournaments don’t attract the same number of viewers as men’s events. So that means more money from television and sponsors for men’s events. The same is true in, say, basketball, where the NBA and the WNBA are miles apart in television ratings and salaries.

So the progress is slow, and it remains difficult to get people to watch something on television or attend it in person if they just aren’t interested. Building interest in women’s sports is the key to more equitable pay.

Maybe the U.S. women’s soccer team will be able to get people interested in the women’s soccer league, the NWSL, and perhaps that can spill over into more and more women’s sports. For now, purses are rising on the LPGA Tour and in women’s majors. And that’s a good trend.

Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or larry.bohannan@desertsun.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.

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