'The Women Aren’t Getting Away With Anything' - Dame Laura Davies

Dame Laura Davies and the head of the Ladies European Tour Alex Armas on why the Aramco Team Series isn't a case of double standards

Aramco Team Series
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This week the Ladies European Tour moves to Sotogrande for round three of the Aramco Team Series, a series backed by Saudi money with Aramco the world’s largest oil producer.

There will be a wealth of Solheim Cup stars on show joining the likes of the Korda sisters in Spain. This is big business with a total prize pot of $1m which is a substantial uplift on many of the tournaments on the calendar - for the record Golf Saudi currently backs six events on the LET, five of which are the Aramco Team Series

This year’s golfing headlines have been absolutely dominated by the never-ending talk and rumours surrounding LIV Golf as the men’s game has been fractured beyond belief – imagine at the start of the year the likes of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka not featuring in the FedEx Cup Playoffs or the likes of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter putting a line through their hopes to one day becoming a Ryder Cup captain.

The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational took place on June 9-11 at Centurion Club and the event was dominated by the howls of outrage over the players taking the Saudi money, a week later the women of the LET were playing at the same course, in an event also backed by the same money, and there wasn’t a hint of any criticism.

Dame Laura Davies, who will be featuring at Sotogrande this week, remains one of the most forthright voices in the game so who better to ask why the double standards?

“This is a completely different thing, LIV Golf is wealthy players getting wealthier and I would never criticise players for any decision that they make as we’re all self-employed. On the women’s side it’s prize money where the girls can make enough money in the Aramco Series to pay for their season with a couple of good finishes – that’s all that the LET want, to provide for the players and, if the LET is strong, then that can only be good for women’s golf,” the 58-year-old explains.

“The LPGA Tour has huge money but not everyone can play on it. The Aramco Team Series is giving girls the option to be able to play a full season and make money - we’re professional sports people and, if we’re not making money, then it’s not viable. We have £200k tournaments and I’ve said this for years, that’s just not enough. I will very rarely play in a tournament like that as I don’t think it’s right, the quality of player on the LET shouldn’t be playing for such small prize money where the winner will get £30k against a world-class field.

“The women aren’t getting away with anything, it’s a way for these girls to compete six times a year and earn decent money. I really don’t compare the two, you can make a case if you want to but it is a little bit ridiculous.”

If you choose not to play in the series, as Meghan MacLaren has done for the most part (she played in New York), then you are taking a huge financial hit for the year. MacLaren is currently in eighth spot on the Race To Costa Del Sol money list in spite of not playing in any of the Aramco events. 

“That’s completely fair enough if that’s the way that they see it, I would never second guess anyone’s decision in the men’s game as everyone has reasons to do something and that’s fine. I don’t want to criticise anyone and I don’t particularly like being criticised myself for playing in these events – nobody is particularly right and nobody is particularly wrong.” 

Dame Laura Davies

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alex Armas is the CEO of the Ladies European Tour, a role she has been in since January 2020 having previously held the position of Executive Director from 2008-2012. In the interim the LET saw seven events being pulled from the 2017 calendar, plenty of talk of the tour being on the brink of collapse and sponsors nowhere to be found. 

“If you think where the LET was in 2019 and then the pandemic hit, our objective when I rejoined was to grow the number of tournaments, grow the prize funds and increase the number of player opportunities," explains Armas.

"Having this partnership with Aramco we have stabilised our schedule and the opportunity to expand, there are 33 tournaments and six with Aramco, but it’s not just the prize money but the quality of the delivery of the events which is to the highest standard and they’re played on great courses. After a tough few years it has given the players the chance to start thinking about playing golf again as a career opportunity which, realistically, before they would have to look at other jobs.” 

In an ever-changing golfing kaleidoscope at the moment there is now talk of there being a women’s LIV Golf league, something that Greg Norman ‘100 per cent’ sees happening. The LPGA Tour commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan has already revealed that she would sit down with the Saudi-backed circuit, something that Armas would also do.

“We would engage in a conversation with LIV as we would with any other partner. Everyone is assuming that what is happening in the men’s LIV Golf league will be a carbon copy of what might happen in the women’s game and, until we know what LIV’s ambitions are with the women’s game and we have a constructive dialogue and to find these synergies, then it’s hard to say what that might look like. But we would engage in any conversation with a potential partner and see what the opportunities are and what challenges come with it and evolve those conversations.”

The Aramco Team Series - Sotogrande begins on Thursday August 18 

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.