Marked as confidential, it was an email that was never meant to enter the public domain. However, for whatever reason, the message got to The Times. A whistleblower decided to leak that email and what has emerged is that the Ladies European Tour is looking fragile.
For many within the game, the sense of shock has been somewhat diluted. The LET has seen a reduction in tournaments over the years. Back in 2014, the tour hosted 22 events excluding any majors on European soil. Now that figure stands at 15 following five cancelled events. One of those remaining events has been co-sanctioned by the LPGA. Even more concerning is the lack of events in the first part of the year. Since the start of 2017 LET players have taken to the course only four times. To make matters worse, one of the recent events cancelled is the tour’s flagship event, The Ladies European Masters.
Yet, the loss of events is something players are becoming all too familiar with. Last season there were 18 events excluding the majors. It has been tough, gradual and painful. Whilst most tours experience the ups and downs of events and sponsorships, the LET, in particular, is stalling.
As a freelance writer, I can empathise with the players. The knowledge of not knowing where the next paycheck might come from is one particular concern. Having spoken to players I have been told stories of budget travel and room sharing just to save much-needed funds. Then there is the schedule itself. It’s sporadic nature often means that the players have to resort to other means of financing themselves such as pro-ams and corporate golf days. Some even have a part time job that they have to juggle in order to make ends meet. Plans and schedules are made to revolve around the tour. Now they face the prospect of gaps in the schedule that potentially won’t be filled.
Then there is the money. As we all know golf is a cut throat profession. Miss the cut and take home nothing. It really is as simple as that. Then there is the gulf in prize money, not only between the men and women but also between tours. The LPGA is the where the money is and they all know that. Yet, when LPGA Q-School comes around there are LET players who may not qualify due to the lack of golf they have faced whilst on tour. It is not the best situation for them as they aim to break into the biggest tour for women’s golf.
However, there is hope. We seem to forget that the LPGA faced a similar situation in the days before Michael Whan. The LPGA was in trouble back in 2009 following economic recession. The tour had only attracted 23 events, the fewest number since 1972. The LPGA at this time was going backwards quickly. In the end, it was a player revolt that saw then Commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, head to the exit.
Since taking over as Commissioner, Whan has increased events, prize money, sponsorship and television deals. The golfing media in the United States has also been a massive part of the project. The formula has been perfect. This is why the LPGA is the tour every female player wants to play on.
So yes, the LET can be saved there is no question about that. However, the LET will need to take a long hard look at itself in order to prevent a player revolt of the same scale that the LPGA endured. With no tour, the players can not play. With no players, there is no tour.
So how can we ensure the future of the LET? The solution is relatively simple but ultimately challenging. It involves everyone getting behind it. From fans attending events, sponsors supporting it and an increased media presence. All have to participate. After all, why would a sponsor stump up the cash if their products are not getting the attention? How do fans even know about events and players if media outlets don’t write about them? It will take all of us to make it thrive once more.
We often use the phrase “growing the game”, in fact, we use it so much that the value of the statement is beginning to lose its impact. Yet, the game is actually growing and in particular, among women. Young girls are picking up clubs inspired by the players they see. I often see it when I go to events. There I see players taking selfies and signing autographs and in that moment, young girls around the world have new role models to aspire to be like. Little do they actually know that with each blow such as a cancelled event, their role models are feeling the pain.
The tour is far too important to lose not only for the future of golf but also for your daughters, nieces and every young child who wants to be the next Charley Hull. It’s never too late to save something as important as that now is it? I only hope that now the lid has been lifted, it gives us all a chance to do everything in our power to do just that.