US Open’s $10m purse offers hope for gender pay equity

Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her shot from the fourth tee during a practice round for the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her shot from the fourth tee during a practice round for the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

PA

Dottie Pepper recalls being paired with Meg Mallon for the final round of the 1991 US Women’s Open with what she considered an impressive $110,000 first prize on the line.

Things have changed, but Lydia Ko is not saying enough.

Mallon would win this tournament and earn the record salary.

“It was the first time a winning check was in six figures,” Pepper said. “It was a big deal.”

Pepper finds it hard to believe that just over three decades later, the world’s best female golfers will be vying for a record $10 million purse, including a $1.8 million winner’s share at the US Women’s Open which begins Thursday at Pine Needles, after the USGA secured major sponsorship from ProMedica.

Ko, the No. 3 ranked golfer in the world, said players should be grateful for the progress towards equal pay, but added “there is still a long way to go”.

There are.

Even though the scholarship is up $4.5 million from a year ago, women still lag behind men.

The 2021 US Open men’s purse was $12.5 million, including $2.25 million for champion Jon Rahm. The prize money for this year’s tournament is expected to increase significantly when announced next month. The Masters purse went from $11.5 million to $15 million this year and the Men’s PGA Championship went from $12 million to $15 million.

This is a gender pay gap that is reflected in many professional sports.

In basketball, the average NBA player earned $5.3 million per season, according to Basketball Reference, while WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart earned a maximum of $228,094. That’s just a drop in the bucket for Golden State’s Stephen Curry, whose annual salary is $45.7 million.

Female basketball players, including Brittney Griner, who the US government says is being wrongfully detained in Russia, are playing overseas in the offseason to supplement their income.

Professional female athletes’ paychecks are lower in various sports, according to research from Adelphi University published in 2021:

– The average salary for a Major League Baseball player was $4 million, compared to $6,000 for those with Women’s Professional Fastpitch.

— Female players in Major League Soccer earned an average of $410,730, compared to $35,000 for their female counterparts in the National Women’s Soccer League.

— Male tennis players earned an average of $335,946 last year while women earned $283,635.

— Male golfers earned an average of $1.25 million compared to $48,993 for their female counterparts.

Among Forbes’ 50 highest-paid athletes in 2022, tennis player Naomi Osaka was the only woman to make the list at $59.2 million – the vast majority coming from sponsorship deals.

But progress is being made.

Earlier this month, the US Soccer Federation reached a landmark agreement to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making the US national governing body the first in sport to promise both genders equal wages. It came after fans chanted “Equal pay!” after the women’s team won the 2019 World Cup and the team filed a discrimination complaint.

In tennis, there have been equal payouts for men and women at all four Grand Slam events – Wimbledon, the French Open, the US Open and the Australian Open – since 2007, the result of the boycott threat from Billie Jean King in 1973. However, men win more than women at other smaller tennis tournaments.

“I think the women weren’t paid as much because the predominantly white male executives saw less value in women’s sports,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in the sport. “Furthermore, sport is a reflection of the society where women are underpaid compared to men.

“Now attendance at women’s games and TV viewership are increasing dramatically. This, coupled with a better climate for social justice over the past two years, is finally accelerating discussions about equal pay. At the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, I hope sport can help pave the way for equal pay for women everywhere.

Female golfers are working hard to close the pay gap.

Australian Minjee Lee says winning the trust and support of a major sponsor like ProMedica is “a huge step in the right direction” for women’s golf. And professional female athletes in general.

“I think it’s going to get better and better,” added Lee.

When Annika Sorenstam won this event in 1996 at Pine Needles, she took home $212,500 and became the first golfer to exceed $1 million in career earnings.

On Sunday, the champion will earn nearly double for winning a tournament.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Sorenstam said. “It’s a huge change. It’s a massive boost. It gives women a lot more credibility and respect. … I hope other tournaments will follow, and let’s continue to work in this direction to other women.

With support from ProMedica, the US Women’s Open purse is expected to grow each year to $12 million over the next five years.

“To see the sponsors we have here on the LPGA Tour, to see the purse go up, the TV coverage, that’s what we want,” said American Lexi Thompson, the world No. 6 golfer. “We want to develop the game and leave it in a better place.

Karen Stupples started playing on the LPGA Tour at a time when women were struggling to make a living.

Her first career tournament paycheck was $1,306 in 1999 when she finished tied for 58th at the Phillips Invitational.

“I just can’t fathom what difference it would make to anyone,” said Stupples, now a commentator for NBC covering this week‘s US Open. “I can’t even talk about it properly. I mean, my God, what a move this is.

Jin Young Ko, the world’s No. 1 player, said it was a lot of money at stake – and she planned to give some of it back if she won.

“I want to help kids who want to be LPGA players,” Ko said. “I want to help them. If I win, I will. »

___

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

___

More AP Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Comments are closed.