I’m probably going to tick a few people off with my following comments but you can’t fix what isn’t broken. I stumbled across a Twitter discussion the other day that got the two of the three brain cells in my cranium activated. The reason only two cells is because the 3rd is in charge of keeping my heart beating and lungs pumping air, but I digress. The question:
“How can we golf fix the wage gap between the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour?”
LPGA star Stacey Lewis in a recent Golf.com piece laments the pay gap:
“It’s pretty frustrating to still see the huge gap in what the guys are paid and we are paid, you know. When really we are doing the same thing and the only difference is the TV numbers and the TV ratings. That’s really it. We’re probably actually hitting more fairways than the guys and more greens than the guys, you know. There’s certain parts of the game we actually do better. Um, you know when I play with the guys a lot they’re like ‘do you ever miss a fairway?’ That’s usually what they say to me so, I mean, our games are pretty comparable so it’s just the exposure.”
My first reaction to the stats argument is that I know a guy who golfs every day and is 80 years old. He’s practically deaf and can barely see. I’ve NEVER seen this guy miss a fairway. He hits his driver about 100 yards and dead straight every time. He should be making $10 million a year! Think back to when Tiger Woods was dominating professional golf. His driving accuracy was terrible, barring a few stretches where it was just mediocre. But he could hit recovery shots nobody else could. He made the putts when he had to at the most dramatic times. It was golf entertainment at a level which had probably never been higher and may never be again.
How does TaylorMade market their drivers? The number one thing they’ll hit potential buyers with is distance. Sure they’ll mention accuracy as a side note but really, the buyer doesn’t seem to care that much. It’s about distance, power… It’s not about fairways hit or who hits the most greens in regulation. Otherwise Fred Funk would have been Tiger Woods. From a fan standpoint it’s about entertainment. All due respect to Fred Funk, I’d rather watch Tiger or Rory McIlory, Jason Day. That said, when Fred Funk won THE PLAYERS (always spell that in ALL CAPS. It’s what they do), his funky chicken dance was very entertaining.
Lewis says that if the women simply got more exposure they would become as popular as the men. Uh, no. I rarely watch professional golf anymore, but if I do, I want to watch the best, most exciting golfers on the planet. Those golfers are Rory McIlory, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth… You get it. Sure the LPGA players are talented and such, I’m not arguing that point.
When it boils down to nuts and bolts the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour are forms of entertainment, just like the NBA. The salaries of professional golfers are paid by the fans who either support the advertisers for events, or support the players’ sponsors. The players who draw the most attention naturally are the ones who can draw the biggest paychecks in the form of prize money and endorsements, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlory, and so on. The men are obviously more entertaining to the general public than the women are, and therefore draw more revenue. The general public doesn’t care about fairway percentage or greens in regulation or the LPGA Tour would have surpassed the PGA Tour in viewership long ago.
Pro golf is not an industry like my day job doing web development. If I have a set of specific web development skills which are the same as a female web developer then it is certainly unfair that on average she would make 78 cents compared to every dollar I make. That is completely unfair and not right. But pro golf isn’t web development. It’s not managing a Subway. It’s not asset management or working at a bank or doing sales or flying an airplane. It’s an entertainment industry. In such an industry the money is driven by viewers.
Arguing for gender equity in professional golf is an argument that will never win. If the LPGA was truly as entertaining as the PGA Tour, it would have already established itself as an equal in viewership and sponsor dollars. It’s not and it never will be.