The future of the Ladies European Tour might look very different with the news that their American counterparts might be stepping in
How to solve a problem like the Ladies European Tour? The annual chorus that there aren’t enough playing opportunities, not enough prize money and that the LET is basically a feeder tour for the LPGA could all be solved with the news that the two tours have opened up talks again which could lead to a “true partnership.”
A letter was sent to the LET players this week telling them the conversation was “in full swing” to create a 50-50 joint venture. This comes after the LPGA Tour launched some sort of takeover bid in 2018, a move that was knocked back by the then chief executive Mark Lichtenhein who stepped down after the Solheim Cup.
At the time the LPGA’s commissioner, Mike Whan, said: “I think the idea of us running it, it becoming an LPGA Tour and their top players having a direct pass to the LPGA … they didn’t really love either of those things. I don’t necessarily understand those concerns but I respect them.”
Now, in the communication to the LET players, the chairman of the board Marta Figueras-Dotti said: “This summer, the LPGA and LET began discussions about a true partnership, where we would work together to build stronger tour schedules, create more financial stability, and deliver a Ladies European Tour that could offer its members significantly more opportunities to compete, earn an income and advance their professional career.”
How it would work is up for grabs. The LPGA Tour has a developmental tour called the Symetra so would the LET be an equivalent to that, would the LET have some events in the States and would this mean some much-needed TV coverage? And where does it leave the LET’s development tour, the Access Series?
As things stand the LET appears to have steadied the ship of sorts following seven events folding in 2017 though the money remains in a different world to anything to do with their American counterparts and coverage of any sort is minimal in relevant terms.
This is a harsh example but the recent Czech Ladies Open had a total prize fund of €120,000 while the Spanish Open, where the players will gather for their annual meeting in November to be told of any new agreement, will feature a prize pot of €300,000.
This week’s LPGA prize fund in Shanghai is $2.1 million.
Last year the LET featured 15 tournaments for around $14m, take out the majors and co-sanctioned Women’s British Open and Evian Championship and around half of that is gone. The LPGA had more than double the events nearly five times as much in prize money.
The days of European players boosting their salaries by getting part-time jobs or playing in local pro-ams or simply leaving the game as things are no longer viable might be less in the near future, let’s hope so.
NCG has contacted several LET officials and players for comment.