Is the gap closing between men and women’s professional golf? Can football give the sport a helping hand? Should there be more mixed events? Three of the European game’s biggest stars have their say
Headline boxing shows are selling out historic venues. Record crowds are being seen at women’s football and cricket. Women’s sport is getting the mainstream attention it deserves – and the figures show we can’t get enough of it.
But can we say the same for golf? Is the women’s professional game on an upward curve? Should there be equal TV time and equal prize money with the men’s game? Should there be more mixed events?
These are big questions and, to answer them, we asked some of European women’s golf biggest stars. Dame Laura Davies, Anna Nordqvist, and Anne Van Dam have full trophy cabinets and strong views…
There has traditionally been a gap between men’s and women’s golf – in terms of prize funds and publicity – but do you think there is momentum building?
Anne Van Dam: If you compare it to demand, will we ever get to the same level? I would say, probably not. That’s just because there’s so much more attention around the men and TV is where they basically make their money.
I think, in that perspective, we have a way to go. I don’t know if it’s realistic to think we might have an LPGA that’s going to be comparable to the PGA Tour. But I strongly believe that sponsors all around the US, and also around the world, are putting together more money, bigger prize funds, and really trying to bump up the women’s purses as much as the men.
I compare it to when I came out on tour and it’s a huge difference already.
Anna Nordqvist: There are a lot of good efforts, from a lot of companies, and it’s been great to be a part of it and just seeing that every tournament keeps growing. I think most of us don’t do this for the money but when you look at the back end, in some events, you make the cut and it doesn’t even cover your expenses for a week.
Those are the moments and those are the times when you see the top end but you don’t realise the struggles at the bottom, so it is nice to see things go up because as much as what it’s going to do on the top, it’s also going to help at the bottom.
You can make comparisons with women’s football which has gone to unprecedented heights – and there is a determination to give women’s sport its proper place. Is that crucial?
AVD: Yes, for sure. But, talking about women’s golf, I never felt like we were left very far behind – if that makes sense. I never really felt left out. It’s amazing to see a transition just in the last few years, and especially with these big sponsors committing more and more to women’s golf and creating more of a buzz around it. It’s helping the sport big time and creating only more attention.
Dame Laura Davies: Women’s professional golf is in a good state. Obviously, the girls winning the Euros last year has taken football to a different level. It’s brilliant – the money the girls are being transferred for. I went to the Arsenal-Frankfurt Champions League semi-final. I don’t like Arsenal but I went to a game because I was so impressed with how good they are.
I watch a lot of men’s football [and] you just can’t compare the two. It’s played at a different pace. It’s [women’s football] not as physical, but it’s brilliant to watch and I don’t see why more people wouldn’t want to watch it.
But if you’re going to compare it to the men, you’re not going to enjoy women’s football if you expect to go and see the way they play. It’s different.
AN: It’s great to see women’s soccer getting the attention it is. Maybe some soccer fans are a little bit hesitant watching it but then you watch it and you realise it is really good athletes. I think we’ll get there. Women’s golf is in a good place. We keep growing and we see that with more and more companies wanting to be part of it and more TV coverage, and better TV time. There are just small things I think keep getting added all the time. I think there’s a great future ahead.
The mixed events have been generating huge publicity over the past couple of years – particularly when Linn Grant won in 2022. Should there be more mixed, or more team events?
DLD: I like the version where men and women play at the same golf courses. The unfortunate thing is you need two world class courses to do that. I’m not sure I’m a great fan of men and women playing for the same prize money and mixing the teams up. I don’t think I’m a huge fan of that format.
But I do love it when we play. There is the Victoria Open and I think that’s a nice way to do it. Separate prize funds, I like. [The Scandinavian Mixed?] It’s fun to watch, I watched it. But I don’t think I’m a huge fan.
I use a phrase all the time that the men have the best golfers in the world and we’re the best women golfers in the world, and why would we want direct competition between the two? Unless they are off the same tees, I don’t really know why we’re doing it. That’s always been my thing. I don’t have to prove I’m the best golfer in the world. I know I’m not. I used to be the best woman golfer in the world and that was fine. I was happy with that.
But if you’d stuck me on the PGA Tour at my height, I wouldn’t have made any cuts. But that doesn’t matter because, to me, that’s not what it’s all about.
AN: We’ve got the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup and those special team moments. We’ve got Aramco Team Series, which includes sponsors, and probably gives them the experience of a lifetime.
There’s probably not a cooler experience than to walk inside the ropes with pros like playing alongside them. I’m sure it’s nerve wracking, but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
I certainly think there’s a way that we can motivate the next generation to have these cool things. If you look at the Olympics, they’re missing a team format and, maybe, a mixed [event] and that would be something that would be fun.
There’s a lot of good ideas out there – whether it will happen or not. In my years on tour, I never really played alongside some of the guys, and you don’t ever see them, because you have different schedules.
Even if you’re a member of the same club, you’re never really there at the same time. So I think it would be cool to play with the guys once a year – or once every other year.
What do you think? How does women’s golf achieve the same profile as women’s football? Let us know with a tweet.
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