Is there a future for the Ladies European Tour?
Europe’s recent success at the Solheim Cup has once again prompted people to wonder why it seems impossible to have a successful Ladies European Tour (LET). However if you were watching the Ladies Scottish Open or the recent event in Stinges you will see why they face an uphill struggle. At both events when watching the TV coverage there seemed to be more people inside the ropes than spectators outside them. Huge crowds turned up at Gleneagles for the Solheim but the same could not be said of the Ladies Scottish Open held outside Edinburgh. The commercial reality seems to be that companies are reluctant to become involved because attendances at many LET events are poor and TV audiences are small. There simply isn’t the demand for the product on offer and this is what makes it impossible for the women’s game to have parity with its male counterparts. It would be wonderful to see the Ladies European Tour prosper but unfortunately it isn’t going to happen anytime soon unless the LPGA becomes involved.
Under the leadership of its CEO, Mike Whan the North American tour competes for more than $70 million dollars in prize money whereas their counterparts in Europe barely compete for 25% of that. Many professionals on the LET have had to take part time jobs to supplement their income as prize money is so small and events so infrequent. In late 2017 there were discussions about the LPGA taking over or entering into a partnership with the LET, these did not come to fruition but it seems they have now resumed at the Solheim Cup this year. In an ideal world the LET would act as a “feeder school” for the LPGA Tour in the same way that the Symetra Tour does in the US at the moment. LET Chairman Marta Figueras-Dotti said “We are moving forwards slowly and the Solheim Cup win has helped. The LPGA needs a strong LET, we can help each other and make both strong.” Next year for the first time ever we will have two Irish ladies competing on the LPGA tour, Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow. Both ladies followed a similar path with successful college careers in the states before turning professional. It remains to be seen if future stars of the ladies game, can approach things in a different way. It appears likely that they like Maguire and Meadow will have to head west if they want to pursue a successful career in the ladies game.