Pamela Asher has welcomed the news that Michelle Wie is to play the 2018 Ladies Scottish Open, after admitting that she has never seen the Ladies European Tour schedule as bad as it is this year.
So far this year, there have been only six LET events – four in Australia and one each in South Africa and Morocco – with just seven more scheduled between now and the end of the year.
Of those, two are majors (the RICOH Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship) with another, the European Golf Championships forming part of a new multi-sport event in Glasgow and Berlin this year.
That leaves only four ‘regular’ LET events between now and the end of the year, one being the Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane in July.
Former US Women’s Open champion Wie today confirmed that she will play in the event, which, for the second year running, will be co-sanctioned with the LPGA.
Wie made her debut in the tournament at Dundonald Links last year and Asher says it is great for the event and, by extension, the tour that the 28-year-old is coming back.
“It’s fantastic news,” said the Lanark-born golfer. “It makes it a bigger event having players like Michelle taking part, especially for the crowds who can get to see her somebody that they’re more used to seeing on TV up close.
“For a lot of us, the Ladies Scottish Open is a bit like a LET major because of its LPGA tie-in and the doors that a good week there can open for you, so it makes it extra special when you have some of the best players in the world playing, and Michelle definitely fits that description. It’s a huge week for us. It can make your season.”
The LET is currently in the throes of arguably the most tumultuous period in its 40-year history.
As recently as 2016, there were 21 ranking events in 15 different countries, with a combined prize fund of just over €14m. This year, the picture is much bleaker, with only 13 events in seven countries and marginally more than €10m up for grabs across the board.
A successor to former CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh – who stepped down last August – has yet to be named, with Mark Lichtenstein combining his role as tour chairman with that of acting CEO in the interim.
The subsequent knock-on effects, and reduced schedule, have led to some players taking second jobs to supplement their incomes.
“I think everyone’s a bit frustrated – this is our job, at the end of the day – but there’s not much we can do about it,” added Asher.
“It’s strange because I actually think the standard of players on the tour now is better than at any other time in the five or six years I’ve been playing but the scores don’t really reflect that, which is probably because there aren’t as many opportunities to play and keep your game sharp. “
Asher added that some players have even been forced to go to the USA to play on the Symetra Tour – the feeder circuit to the LPGA – just to stay competitive.
“I really don’t think it can get much worse,” she continued. “At least, I hope it can’t. We need good leadership, first and foremost. When we get that, hopefully things will start to improve because we’ve got great players and a great product.”