Annika Sorenstam believed it was the right decision, even though Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the LPGA commissioner, may have surprised some with her statement that she would speak with LIV Golf. Juli Inkster also did.
The LPGA, the oldest continuously operating professional women’s sports organization in the United States, would be destroyed if Greg Norman and LIV Golf attempted to establish a rival tour that was even remotely similar to what they have done in the men’s game.
If Norman does this, Inkster predicted, “it will completely damage the LPGA because I think most of the girls will go because the money is a game-changer.”
The top female athletes will battle for a $6.8 million purse this week as they assemble at historic Muirfield for the first time. The LPGA will compete for a total purse of $97 million this season, which is about one-fifth that of the PGA Tour. LIV Golf revealed last week that its competitors will fight for $405 million across 14 events in 2023.
Even a small portion of money would be enough to entice several well-known LPGA players to a LIV women’s league with a schedule made up solely of limited-field, no-cut tournaments. Moreover, the possibility of signing bonuses.
The previous No. 1 Stacy Lewis stated, “I hope we make it through it.” “I’m anxious about this tour. I’m worried that we’ll blow all of our opportunities.
According to Sorenstam, it is the commissioner’s responsibility to consider all prospective alternatives, including LIV. A partnership with the Saudi-sponsored Aramco Series, which offers prize money that is three to four times that of a usual tournament on that circuit and totals $6 million, already exists because the LPGA is a participant in a 50/50 joint venture business venture with the Ladies European Tour.
Sorenstam, a 10-time major champion and 72-time LPGA champion, sees the need for a more LPGA-specific version of the rival league that has developed in the men’s game.
Sorenstam declared, “If it’s the money they have on the LIV, you know they’re going to demolish the LPGA.” “Hopefully, they intend to expand the game and collaborate with the LPGA.
“Crushing the LPGA doesn’t benefit anyone in terms of history, the future, or sustainability. This is surrounded by so much negativity. I believe we need to find a way to positively portray all of this, if you realize what I mean.
It’s not hard to picture the LPGA being forced to choose between total destruction and entering into a significant financial relationship with the Saudis.
Although there have been requests for meetings with LIV representatives, it is unclear what the specific talking points would be as there are numerous possible outcomes. The LPGA would be destroyed by a competing independent tour that attracted dozens of outstanding athletes. As an alternative, the two might collaborate in a series of official LPGA events sponsored by Saudi Arabia, similar to the Aramco Team Series on the LET. Of course, it’s hard to tell what LIV wants without speaking with her.
The most improbable scenario is that the best players will team up to stiff-arm the Saudis out of principle.
Lewis remarked, “I believe you have a select few who share my sentiments. “I believe the majority of you would want to know the answer,”
Should we approach them? Absolutely. In the end, I believe we must find a way to coexist.
The wide-ranging human rights violations that Saudi Arabia has been accused of, such as politically motivated killings, torture, forced disappearances, and brutal treatment of inmates, are frequently brought out by critics of LIV. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi writer and Washington Post columnist, was killed, and members of the royal family and the Saudi government are accused of being involved.
How can a women’s organization justify working with a government that has such a horrifying track record of violating human rights, particularly those of women?
Sorenstam stated, “I think that’s maybe one of the reasons we should partner, to be able to make a difference.
Marcoux Samaan said last week that she hasn’t spoken with LIV yet and that it’s too early to make predictions about possible outcomes or possibilities.
For a very long period, we have been dismantling barriers, stated Marcoux Samaan. “I believe that before making any decision, we always refer back to our principles and our aims.”
Only a few dozen players showed up to the voluntary state of the tour conference that was organized at the Dow Great Bay Lakes Invitational last month to examine, among other things, the potential danger of LIV.
The LPGA has always caused Nancy Lopez anxiety. She believed the LPGA would eliminate the pay disparity when she first joined in 1978. She’s still perplexed by the wide gap that still separates the tours, and she’s even more perplexed by what might be coming.
When asked what she would have done in her prime if presented with the opportunity of huge sums of money, Lopez responded, “I’m such a loyal person.
Although it would be difficult to refuse the money, leaving the LPGA would be unbearably difficult. It would merely consume me.
After having her first kid, Ashley, Lopez initially intended to leave the LPGA, but she needed the money and the competitive fire persisted.
Lopez admitted that while the money he made was wonderful, it wouldn’t last him until he was 93 and would need to hire a caregiver.
The LPGA’s pension guarantees that the majority of players will require a second career, even though the PGA Tour has the finest retirement plan in sports.
Consider what it would mean to an LPGA player to play five more years and then retire to raise a family without having to worry about money as so many PGA Tour players talk about going to LIV to generate generational wealth.
Some people believe that having kids and having financial security are more important than continuing to pursue major titles and Hall of Fame points.
There is no doubting that conditions for women have improved in recent years, according to Saudi campaigner Omaima Al Najjar, but she insists that the freedom to drive and the right to travel are basic fundamental rights and not evidence of significant advancement.
The Saudi women activists who brought about those reforms are still facing trial, prosecution, a ban on activity, and a travel ban, said Al Najjar, so it’s crucial to remind the ladies taking part in this tour of that fact.
Al Najjar, a well-known blogger who currently works as a surgeon in Ireland, participated in the right to drive movement in Saudi Arabia before leaving because she judged the hazards to be too high. She still can’t go back because it is too hazardous.
Al Najjar is in charge of ALQST for Human Rights’ initiatives, which track jail conditions and push for the release of activists.
Al Najjar encourages athletes to speak out about the situation of many migrant workers in Saudi Arabia as well as the activists. Women from poor nations are forced to work seven days a week without a defined schedule as maids in the kingdom, “which is a type of slavery,” according to Al Najjar, and frequently have their passports seized.
She went on to say that despite recent reforms, Saudi-born women are still leaving the nation because there are no safe places for victims of domestic violence there.
According to Al Najjar, “there is a problem with killing women in Saudi, and many spouses kill their wives or many fathers kill their daughters, and the Saudi authorities do not do anything about it.”
Al Najjar hopes that LPGA athletes who compete in Saudi Arabia will raise awareness of these issues, even if doing so results in financial loss.
She argued that it was crucial that they make this declaration and support Saudi women.
Few have covered the LPGA with as much dedication and enthusiasm as Ron Sirak, the 2015 PGA Lifetime Award in Journalism winner. Sirak argued that it’s critical to understand the distinction between sponsoring a competition and running the tour in response to those who questioned how LIV Golf was any different from the LET’s Aramco Series or players displaying the Golf Saudi emblems on their hats and shirts. Like the distinction between sponsoring and owning an athlete.
It may be challenging for the LPGA to determine how to interact with those who want to provide financial support, according to Sirak. Would the LPGA continue function independently if they were receiving support from the tour? Or would the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia own them?
The LPGA is in no position to throw money at a possible danger and, as a result, has little influence given the Saudis’ almost limitless wealth and disregard for market value—this seems to be more about power and image.
Veteran LPGA player Ryann O’Toole thinks the PGA Tour erred by ignoring LIV Golf. If what Norman claims is accurate and LIV intends to create a women’s league, O’Toole hopes that the LPGA will collaborate with them so that players won’t have to make a decision.
O’Toole remarked, “I think that it would be a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of, like, the likelihood that there could be some significant cash opportunities, and that we come together as two companies, rather than having two distinct organizations.
Whatever happens, Marcoux Samaan must continue to operate under a paradigm that is viable, even if the Saudis decide to abruptly leave the golf industry. One that would continue exist even if the LPGA suffered a financial setback.
Imagine Saudi Arabia becoming the first nation to pay elite male and female professional golfers equally. It is commonly stated that Saudi Arabia has a gender pay discrepancy of 49%. or came near to it.
According to Maria Fassi, whose company, GSE, represents a number of LIV customers, including Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Jason Kokrak, Branden Grace, Abraham Ancer, and Carlos Ortiz, “Financially, it is life-changing money.”
“Whatever they come and offer me, whether it’s $10,000,000, $20,000,000, 15, 7, or anything else, it’s money that 99 percent of the girls out here aren’t seeing.”
And for many, it may not really matter where the money comes from in the end.