Martin Slumbers has pledged to keep doing all he can to build prize money for female golfers after a new report demonstrated once again how far golf still has to go to achieve financial gender parity.
The Forbes’ Women’s Sport Rich List, published today, ranks the top-10 earners in women’s professional sport over the last year. The top nine athletes are all tennis players, led by the top-ranked Naomi Osaka with earnings of $37.4. Footballer Alex Morgan completes the list, having made $4.6m in 2020.
That has brought the issue of prize money for female golfers sharply back into focus, particularly with the AIG Women’s Open taking place at Royal Troon this week.
Last year’s event was won by Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, who received $675,000 for her victory at Woburn. That equates to just 35% of the $1,935,000 pocketed by Shane Lowry for winning the equivalent men’s event, The Open Championship, just weeks earlier.
All four tennis grand slams offer equal prize money for their men’s and women’s champions. The US Open was the first to do so in 1973, with Wimbledon, in 2007, the most recent.
Speaking to reporters from Royal Troon earlier today, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers – the man principally responsible for both The Open and Women’s Open – said that improving the financial rewards for female golfers remains a key priority for him.
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“We are committed as an organisation to moving it and to building a sustainable
business model to be able to justify that,” he said. “We took a significant increase in the prize money last year moving it up 40%.
“This year, our commitment is staging the championship, but we will absolutely look to move it up and it's my job to sell and market this event to sponsors and partners.”
Despite the interference of the COVID-19 pandemic, it does seem as though there has been, broadly speaking, a noticeable change in attitude towards women’s golf over the past year. A hugely successful staging of the Solheim Cup was followed by the introduction of the innovative and Rose Ladies Series this year – quite possibly the best ‘good news’ story in golf all year.
Slumbers, as you would expect, has taken notice and says there’s “a real snowball developing”, which has helped to give the women’s game more momentum.
“I would look to all corporations to help get this behind women's sport and grow that prize money,” he added. “We're committed, absolutely committed, to doing that, but in a sustainable way.”
Whilst every last pound remains a prisoner for the game’s top females, the top male golfers continue to play for eye-popping amounts of money. Only last week, Justin Thomas was given a $2m bonus for finishing top of the FedEx Cup standings at the end of the regular season, with even more in the way of bonuses to be share out over the next few weeks as the PGA Tour season reaches its climax.
Surely, that must frustrate Slumbers? Not at all, apparently.
“No frustration at all,” he said. “It's all about developing the product and the right platforms for it to be played on, and then being able to work with partners to understand their needs and them to understand our needs.”