The Gender Gap in Golf Prize Money

Wage gaps have been reported for years and it has been a sore point for anyone that believes in pay equity.  If you are not aware of the statistics, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, “The wage gap remained statistically unchanged in the last year. Women’s earnings were 77.4 percent of men’s in 2010… according to Census statistics released September 13, 2011.”

If you accept that there is an overall pay gap then it should not be a surprise that ladies golf tournaments have much lower total purses (prize money) than men’s tournaments.  The basic logic for the gap is popularity of the tour.  The PGA is more popular and has a larger fan base so it attracts big sponsor dollars.  It should be noted that the PGA purses have increased greatly since Tiger Woods turned professional. Why, because Tiger made the sport so much more popular and even bigger sponsor money followed.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the difference was in recent tournament prize money for the various tours.

PGA versus LPGA

This week the top male players are at the Accenture Match Play, the other PGA players are at the Mayakoba, and the Ladies (LPGA) are in Singapore at the HSBC.  Here are the total purses and winners take for each tournament:

Tournament Purse Winner’s Take Home
Accenture Match Play $8.5 Million $1.4 Million
Mayakoba Open $3.7 Million $666,000
HSBC Women’s Classic $1.4 Million $210,000

I also was curious to see the difference between events sponsored by the same company. Lucky for me, HSBC sponsored both the Dhabi Desert Classic and the Women’s event in Singapore.  The Dhabi Desert Classic had a purse of $2,031,296 and the winner took home $451,131. The HSBC Women’s Classic (as noted above) had a purse of $1.4 Million and the winner took home $210,000.  I do think HSBC should be given credit for sponsoring both a women’s and men’s event; even if the prize money was not equal.

To give even more perspective on the gap, let’s compare the second place prize money of recently completed events.  The second place money for the LPGA HSBC was $102,564 and for the PGA Northern Trust Open was $580,800.  Another comparison of note — At the Northern Trust Open, the four men players tied for 4th place, each made $259,875.  That’s right, they made $49,875 more than the winner of the LPGA player at the HSBC.

Nationwide Tour versus Futures Tour

Now here are some numbers for the tournaments that the up and coming stars of golf play (i.e. think of these like the farm team leagues in other sports).  The PGA has the Nationwide Tour and the LPGA has the Symetra Futures Tour.

Tournament Purse Winner’s Take Home
Bogata Open
$600,000 $108,000
Future Tour
Florida Natural Classic
$125,000 $11,000

Champions Tour versus Legends Tour

There is also one final comparison to be made and that is the senior tours (for players over the age of 50).  The men play on the Champions Tour and the women play on the Legends Tour.  Now this is a bit less fair of a comparison because the senior ladies really do not play as much compared to the senior men but since they do have tours, I want to share an example.

Tournament Purse Winner’s Take Home
Campions Tour (Men)
Allianz Tourament
$1,8 Million $270,000
Legends Tour (in April)
Walgreens Charity Classic
$200,000 not listed (but obviously it will be lower than the men)

It is clear the gap in prize money is huge across the board.  Since the main earning years are on the two main tours (PGA and LPGA) I think that is where the issue really hits home.  It’s hard to say what would be fair if you assume that purses are driven by the ability of the tour to increase the popularity of the tour and in turn the size of the fan base.  You could even say that the payout for the men on the PGA tour is outrageous given the winner on the PGA often takes home over a million dollars for a week of work.  But it is what it is.

Obviously, as a women I find this an incredibly sad state of the game. I would like to see larger purses for the women.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the purses in women’s golf will ever be as large as the men’s but let’s hope over the next few years the leadership of the LPGA can make strides in increasing popularity of the tour and the fan base so that they can impact the size of the gender gap in golf tournament purses.