Sally Watson has spoken of the challenges facing young female amateurs in the UK after completing one of her final rounds as a professional golfer at the Ricoh Women's British Open.
The Scot, 26, has been accepted into the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where she’ll begin work on a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) in September and leave behind a four-year career on the Ladies European Tour.
Watson, who graduated from Stanford University in 2013, is thankful for the opportunities that playing golf professionally has given her but, in truth, has never considered the sport as a long-term career option and has longed to get back into the intellectual environment of university.
In her time on the Ladies European Tour though, and given the circuit’s current struggles, she has become only too aware of the lack of parity in the men’s and women’s game and hopes whatever she opts to do after graduating for a second time will offer more financial stability.
“There’s been a lot in the media recently about the gender pay gap and I think one of the biggest challenges for female amateurs starting out in Scotland and the UK is getting that financial support from corporate sponsors,” said Watson, who opened with a level par 72 at Kingsbarns after being handed the honour of hitting the opening tee shot.
“When you see some of the men on the Challenge Tour, whatever else, they’ve got a decent amount of financial support, whereas here you’ve got players in the top 30 of the LET Money List that are struggling to get the financial support to invest in themselves and progress their game.
“Playing golf isn’t the least stressful of careers you can choose. You have to go and earn your living every week – a specific amount doesn’t go into your bank account every month like my sister – so I hope whatever career I choose will offer a bit more financial stability.
“At the same time, I want to continue to do something that I’m passionate about. I want to be able to live and personal fulfillment is definitely my No.1 thing.”
As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy decision for Watson to make, but she made it last summer – before the Ladies European Tour’s problems started to surface – after admitting she struggled to figure out how to be happy as a professional golfer.
But what advice does she have for young, aspiring amateurs determined to forge a career in the professional game? Simple. Broaden your horizons.
“I’m a huge believer in getting out there and competing outside Scotland as much as possible,” she added. “We’re a small country. There’s a huge amount of competition out there and a huge amount of experience to be gained from travelling to other countries, playing other types of golf courses and seeing the standard elsewhere.
“Whenever I’ve spoken to up-and-coming Scottish girls, I’ll encourage them to go to university because I’m a huge believer in it. There are amazing opportunities out in America. There are thousands to choose from so you do have to be careful, get good advice, and go somewhere that will progress your golf game, progress you as an individual but also where it’ll be as easy a transition as possible.”
Picture credit: LET Flickr / Tristan Jones