Despite the Grant Thornton Invitational Hopes, the 2023 Highest Paid Female Athletes List Sheds Major Concern For Women’s Golf

Published 12/08/2023, 1:15 PM EST

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Nelly Korda will end her year with a broad smile on her face. The eight-time LPGA Tour winner found herself in the tenth spot among the highest-paid female athletes of 2023. Korda has earned a whopping $7.9 million this year, despite not having her best season. The 26-year-old pro will have the chance to add half a million more at the Grant Thornton Invitational.

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While the $4 million purse mixed-gender event offers female pros a chance to measure up to their male peers—a first since 1999—Nelly Korda being the only LPGA Tour pro on the list is also telling. Put her 7.9 million behind Viktor Hovland’s $18 million haul in the season-ending Tour Championship alone, and you’ll get the picture. The total earnings of one LPGA pro throughout the season are less than half of what a top-rated PGA Tour pro earned in one tournament.

The wage gap has increased over the years

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A 2021 BBC study found that the wage gap in golf has increased. In 2014, the wage gap was $900,000, whereas seven years later it stood at $1.25 million. Moreover, three traditional golf majors for men and women offer unequal champions’ prizes to the winners. The US Open this year had a purse size of $20 million, the largest in history. When Wyndham Clark netted a one-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy, the 29-year-old bagged $3.5 million.

Whereas, Allisen Corpuz, the winner of the U.S. Women’s Open, took home$1.5 millionm less when she edged past Charley Hull at Pebble Beach. The U.S. Women’s Open’s purse size was $11 million, nearly half of the men’s tournament’s purse size. The rest of the traditional mixed majors are no different.

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Brooks Koepka, this year’s winner of the PGA Championship, pocketed $3.15 million, whereas Ruoning Yin earned a little less than half of that ($1.5 million) for winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. On the other hand, Brian Harman raked in $3 million for winning the Claret Jug this year. Whereas, a dominant victory at the Walton Hath earned Lilia Vu only $1.35 million.

On the PGA Tour’s money list, Viktor Hovland is the highest-paid golfer this year with $33,512,235. $18 million of that came from the season-ending Tour Championship victory alone. On the LPGA front, this year’s CME Group Tour Championship had $7 million on offer. This year’s winner, Amy Yang, pocketed $2 million in prize money. Notably, next year’s titleholder will rake in double the amount. that Yang banked. CME Group announced that the purse size will be increased to $11 million next year, matching the purse of the U.S. Women’s Open. This is the only silver lining for the female circuit: sponsorships and investments.

How sponsorship deals are elevating the LPGA Tour

The CME Group first partnered with the LPGA Tour in 2011. The successful collaboration has seen the purse size increase by about $6 million in the past 12 years. Partnerships with KPMG and AIG have also benefited two majors. The PGA of America increased the Women’s PGA Championship purse size by over 300% in the last nine years, doubling it in 2022 from 2021.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Women’s British Open has seen a 100% increase in its total purse size since 2019, the year R&A partnered with AIG. The total purse size at that time was $4.5 million, which has now climbed to $9 million this year.

While the CME Offers a $7M Relief, LPGA’s Disparity With PGA Tour and LIV Golf Still Reiterates a Massive Scare

This is obviously a great sign for female golfers that Fortune 500 companies and the Big Four are taking an interest in sponsoring LPGA tour events. The push was long overdue. However, there is still a huge gap between the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour’s overall purse size, and the three traditional Majors’ payouts are still a far cry from achieving parity. Interestingly, this is where LPGA tour pros can take inspiration from tennis players; seven of them find a mention in the highest-paid female athletes’ list, topped by 19-year-old Coco Gauff.

What can LPGA pros learn from tennis?

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In 1972, Billy Jean King pocketed $10,000 for her winner’s check at the U.S. Open, compared to $25,000 reserved for Ilie Nastase, the men’s winner. An infuriated King threatened to pull out of the tournament the next year. Eventually, the U.S. Open agreed to pay an equal amount of money to male and female champions in 1973. It took 11 years for the next Grand Slam—the Australian Open—to follow suit, only to recoil 12 years later.

However, the Australian Open made a course correction in 2001. It would take some more battering and a Times of London article from Venus Williams herself for the oldest of the Grand Slams to bow down. Wimbledon was soon followed by the fall of Bastille; Roland Garros eventually stated they would also do away with the different paychecks, a month after Wimbledon’s announcement.

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That’s not to say that the wage gap doesn’t exist in tennis. In fact, outside the Majors, the picture is not very rosy. Still, tennis remains one of the few sports where majors offer equal paychecks to every winner. The highest-paid female athletes’ list could not have come out at a more opportune moment. Just when Nelly Korda and her LGPA Tour peers are going to tee off at the Grant Thornton Invitational amid rallying cries of gender equality in golf, the list offers a sobering reminder that there is still a long way to go.

Watch This Story | Amid the Historical $11M Event, Nelly Korda and an LPGA Companion Find Themselves in a ‘Hysterical’ Challenge Ahead of Korda’s Much-Awaited Comeback

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

622Articles

One take at a time

I, Parnab Bhattacharya, am a budding golf writer at EssentiallySports. I am keen on constantly exploring my deep-rooted love for golf through my long-time passion for writing. With a strong knack for storytelling and experience in SEO content writing, I bring a unique blend of fluent writing and technical expertise.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira

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