Everyone talks about growing the game, but rarely does anyone have an idea that would make a significant difference or isn’t already being done. I think one way would be to include women in the Presidents Cup.
These matches began as a made-for-TV take-off on the Ryder Cup. It was an attempt to showcase/appease the non-European, male touring professionals from around the world who wanted to compete in something like the Ryder Cup. The success of it has been moderate at best.
From a grow-the-game point of view, the men’s market is stale and over-sold and juniors have plenty of time, money and interest cast their way. The only two remaining groups are the family and women’s market.
I propose that to promote each, one has to expose women’s golf in a more high-profile manner. Women playing golf has to become more socially acceptable, more appealing to women and they must feel welcomed to play. For that to happen, golf’s well known barriers have to erode.
Juli Inkster, one of the most pleasant people in the world and the captain of the American team in this year’s Solheim Cup, spoke up after her players successfully defeated the European Team.
Inkster was so proud of her players’ performance and that of the Euros that she made several statements about the level of play.
She was adamant that top women golfers were not being rewarded for their excellence through financial support by sponsors. Her points were shored up by the fact that many of the European female professionals had to hold part-time jobs to sustain themselves.
Furthermore, women tennis players are paid in terms equal to men. Of course, she also pointed out that the LPGA Tour event purses are only a fraction of those played for by the PGA Tour.
The problem is not the sponsors. The problem is the consumers who are buying the products the sponsors are marketing. If the general public was influenced by enough marketing dollars to entice them to buy the sponsors’ products, the sponsors would pay-out more money to the players.
A couple of items stand out that makes us realize there is cause for hope.
First is the quality of play by the top women golfers. It is outstanding.
Secondly, the organization of the women’s tour, the LPGA, is in good hands and third, the women are highly marketable. They are cooperative with the media and they interact with the public on a very likable level.
Women’s professional golf is perfectly positioned to become the beneficiary of a lot of sponsor investment.
Women tennis players earn prize money equal to men. Why? How did it get there? Easy, tennis became a socially-acceptable activity for women and women enjoyed playing.
The public bought the products sponsors were advertising in conjunction with the TV exposure the women professionals were receiving. Further, women professionals played their major championships within the same tournaments their male counterparts played.
The U.S. Open field of competitors has one for men and one for women but they play on the same courts, during the same time frame and for identical prize money.
One way to expose women’s golf to a larger market would be to hold women’s tournaments at the same time as men, but that would be logistically unrealistic. Both fields require an 18 hole course and a full day of starting times, making such an event impossible.
Currently, women need some form of handicapping or score equalization so playing in the same competition on an equal basis isn’t feasible.
In 2014, the men played their U.S. Open at Pinehurst, followed by the U.S. Women’s Open on the same course. It was a valiant effort/experiment, but it met mixed reviews. The course was the same, but the market was saturated.
However, what might work is an event with women playing against and with the men in a team competition. Women should be playing in the Presidents Cup.
The President’s Cup needs something to differentiate it from being a weak imitation of the Ryder Cup. Historically, the International team hasn’t achieved success against the Americans and, at some point, the sponsors will drift away.
An International Team that included women would do the opposite.
There is a difference in the quality of play between the men’s International team and their American counterpart.There is also a difference between the International women and American players. If they came together, the International women could help offset the International men’s shortfall.
Establish two teams, each with 20 players, 10 men and 10 women. One week before the event, host a grand show on TV where the 40 names are drawn in a blind draw for different combinations in the various match play formats.
The possibilities are endless and there may be a need for adjustment in matches between genders, but imagine having the entire competition coming down to the last singles match with a woman sinking a putt to beat a man to win the Presidents Cup.
It is a marketer’s dream. Women’s golf would get a huge boost. The Presidents Cup would become one the most watched sports events on TV. Golf would grow. Everyone would be happy.