Why golf should follow tennis and adopt equal pay for US Open

Male and female players get equal prize money at tennis majors and the world hasnt imploded. Doing the same in golf would help the game

Equal pay for equal play. The phrase has been made popular thanks to the US womens soccer teams fight for equal pay and treatment with their male counterparts.

Those who argue against parity say its a matter of simple economics: male sports tend to generate more revenue, therefore men should make more than women. Its an argument that makes sense in some cases (of course, the pay gap could be mitigated if the media covered womens sports more generously, but thats an argument for another day.)

But what happens when an organization operates and runs a national championship for men and women? Is that organization obligated to ensure equal pay for the participants of each event?

This week, female golfers will play the US Open at Trump National golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The tournament is operated by the United States Golf Association (USGA), which also put on the mens US Open each year. Its a spectacular event, with the field made up of the best players in the world. Its also the biggest purse of the year for both genders.

This year, the mens purse was the highest in its history at $12m, with the winner Brooks Koepka taking home $2.16m. The womans purse is set at $5m, meaning that that the third-place finisher at the mens US Open made only $5,000 less than 2016 womens US Open champion, Brittany Lang, who won $810,000 for the week.

I have been fortunate enough to play in two womens US Opens. In 2011, I made the cut at the Broadmoor golf club, and finished tied for 64th, making a whopping $7,735. After my expenses of a hotel, flight, and caddy for the week, I brought home about $1,000. That same year, at the mens US Open, Wes Heffernan finished dead last and made $16,539. I played my heart out that week, as Im sure Heffernan did. So why didnt the USGA see us as equals? Are the women not playing the same amount of holes? Are they not putting in the work for the week during their practice rounds and range sessions to increase their chances of success?

Perhaps the USGA should look to tennis, where men and women are paid the same at majors (and larger tournaments such as Indian Wells and the Miami Open). Sure, some guys dont like it, but there have been no mass boycotts from the men, and it would be hard to imagine male golfers walking away from a chance to play at the US Open.

Its not like the USGA lacks the funds to make this happen. They currently have a 12-year deal with Fox Sports estimated to be worth about $1.1bn. That means the contract is worth around $93m a year until it expires in 2027. Dont they have the $7m extra to add to the womens purse?

In any case, the womens US Open could do with some good publicity. The USGA has been mired in controversy for keeping the womens tournament at a golf course owned by Donald Trump, someone who has a history of treating women with contempt. Surely it would have quietened some of the USGAs critics if they paid the women equally, and sent a message that counters the presidents attitude to women?

I understand why the PGA and LPGA tour have different purse prizes: they are separate organizations with different funds available to them. But the USGA represents men and women. If they cant add funds to the purse, then perhaps they should pay the men less. Would it be so awful for the male players to make $1m for first-place at the US Open? They have three other majors where they have the opportunity to make $1.8m or more if they win.

So far, no male golfers have come out in support of equal pay, and no women have boycotted the US Open. While it would be great to see men advocate for womens golf, as Andy Murray does so impressively for womens tennis, the fact is that it should be the USGA, as golfs largest organization, doing the legwork.

The USGA should be praised for raising the womens purse at the US Open over the years, but its not good enough to stop there. If the organization want to the grow the game, they must show they value women equally. Equal pay at one tournament, at least would send a message to all the girls out there hoping to play in the US Open one day.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/13/us-womens-open-golf-equal-pay