Ayla Golf Club hosts the Jordan Mixed Open this week and Chris White from the club spoke to Golf Monthly on golf's gender pay gap as well as much more...
Golf's Gender Pay Gap - 'There Isn’t An Endless Sponsorship Purse For Events'
Golf's gender pay gap isn't anything new but with social media and certain figures speaking out on the issue, it has begun to engage people more so than ever.
Meghan MacLaren pointed out the disparity on the LET and European Tour's Abu Dhabi events in January (women's purse $293k, men's purse $7m) which caused plenty of debate online.
However, times are changing and men and women played for equal prize money in Februrary at the Vic Open and are once again playing for an equal share this week in Jordan.
It a huge week for the women's game with the season's first Major, the ANA Inspiration, as well as the Augusta National Women's Amateur and the Jordan Mixed Open.
The revolutionary Jordan Mixed Open plays host to the men's Challenge and senior Staysure Tours plus the Ladies European Tour, with all three tours competing for one prize from different tees.
The event takes place at the beautiful Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan, a Greg Norman design that was the country's first championship layout.
Golf Monthly spoke to Chris White from Ayla who answered honestly and openly about the Jordan Mixed Open, how to increase prize money on the LET and the male/female golf scene as a whole...
Why has Ayla been chosen as the venue for the first ever three-tour mixed golf tournament and how did it come about?
The concept of a mixed event, though quite popular in the amateur game, doesn’t exist in the professional game. The idea of running such an event has been personally with me for a number of years – I just needed to find the right venue to run the event. In January 2018 I approached Ayla’s Chairman and Managing Director with the idea and concept which they further endorsed. Three separate conversations with the three tours and here we are a year later and preparing ourselves for a world first in golf.
As someone with experience of bringing a new event to the fore, how do you think the LET can increase prize money over the next few years and perhaps fill up the schedule a bit more with other new events and older ones coming back?
Rightly or wrongly the whole world is a very commercial place these days. CEO’s take the helms of businesses and boards and shareholders expect to see, in most cases, annual increases in revenues and profits. The result of this is that you have to have constant evolution in your business.
After that linked but slight digression, Professional Golf has to involve sponsorship and sponsorship is almost always driven or decided upon by ROI return on investment. Gone are the days of ‘good will gesture’, a CEO wants to know who their brand is being exposed to, how much exposure they are getting and be able to tangibly measure whether that is going to give an uplift either in sales or brand equity which is ultimately going to impact end of year results.
Thus, the more exposure the LET and ladies’ game can get, and the more support of the consumer and fans will help justify the CEO’s decision to sponsors the event and so the increase in prize money and tournaments begins.
Can mixed events, like the Jordan Mixed Open, help to boost finances for LET players and close the pay gap?
I genuinely think they can. The reason I say that is if you consider the above answer – exposure, brand value and ROI – if I were a CEO of a company and had the opportunity of sponsoring an event where essentially the two genders across, in our case, three Tours (Ladies, Challenge and Senior) were competing on the same platform – I would think well surely the fans (my customers) are going to follow their respective Tours.
We haven’t seen many mixed male/female pro golf tournaments, so how can they be a success? And how important could they be to grow the women’s game?
Readers must understand me with the below answer. I think the reality is that golf still maintains a slightly traditional approach (which I whole heartedly agree, embrace and consider as one of the great values of the game) BUT if you don’t evolve just like your business you can run the risk of being left behind and potentially losing ground.
The world is such an incredibly different place today than it was just 20 years ago (I often think the last two decades of change must outweigh the level of change or impact of change than in previous periods).
If the game doesn’t change and move with the times and become even more encompassing the public will turn to other sports.
That being said you can offer both. Traditional private members clubs should exist and be enjoyed. More open and inclusive facilities target a different audience.
The professional game has the opportunity to say look we are not changing everything you will still have your men’s and ladies tours but market intelligence, consumer wants, results of Jordan’s ‘first’ are telling us that there is an interest in mixing it up a bit so why not.
The truly amazing and unique thing about golf compared to other sports is the game and the venues are designed for both genders and all abilities. That is why modern day architects have five teeing grounds on every hole, that is why the role of a really good architect means that the hazard locations come into play for all – there is no reason that on some courses the two genders and in our case three demographics can’t compete together – the way the game was originally created.
How can mixed male/female events attract the best players? For example, the LPGA Tour/European Tour/Australian PGA Tour Vic Open in Australia featured just four of the women’s top 50.
Often field quality is about scheduling and purse. It’s a congested area, literally week to week all year round across a multitude of tours but I think everyone is realising that there isn’t an endless sponsorship purse for events and that innovation is required.
Would you like to see more mixed events like the Olympics incorporating a team format?
It’s a great and interesting question. My reactive response is that the Olympics is about individuals but of course that’s far from true. Maybe golf will go down the same route as other sports where you have specialists in different forms of the game. I think the individual male and female Olympic Champion should remain but maybe there is room for a Mixed Foursomes Olympic Champion who may not be from the ‘leading’ players in the world but a pair that gel really well and master that event.
What are the plans for theJordan Mixed Open in the future?
There will obviously be a full evaluation and de-brief after the event, and we will measure what went well and what can be improved. We are pioneers and pioneers in most cases don’t quite know what they are going into. In theory it works, in course set up and ‘scientifically’ it works – practically we will know by the 6th April.
That being said, I do hope it’s not a one-shot wonder but can be repeated.
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Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max
Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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