Golf: World No. 1 Lydia Ko hopes pay gap between men’s and women’s tour will continue to narrow

Lydia Ko has won 19 times on the LPGA Tour with career earnings of more than US$16.7 million. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE – The pay gap between the men’s and women’s golf tours has long been a topic of debate and while it still exists, world No. 1 Lydia Ko is encouraged to see more companies stepping forward in support of the women’s game.

The LPGA Tour boasts a record US$101.4 million (S$137.1 million) in prize money across 33 official events this season, up from US$93.5 million in 2022. In comparison, the total prize money for the PGA Tour is over US$500 million for 47 events in the 2022-23 season. Despite the disparity in prize purses, Ko called for continued recognition of and investment in women’s golf.

“Even on the LPGA, we’ve seen that kind of momentum of more partners supporting and believing in the women’s game. We’ve seen the big purse jumps for our Major championships and even other ones as well,” said Ko, a 19-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

The 25-year-old, whose career earnings exceed US$16.7 million, added: “I hope that more and more partners will get on this trend and we’ll see more of this equality because I get to play alongside the best female golfers week in, week out – I sometimes get goosebumps seeing how good they are – so it’s great that we have these partners stepping forward, being with us and believing in women empowerment.”

The twice Major champion is back in town for the Aramco Team Series Singapore, which tees off on Thursday. She and world No. 14 Danielle Kang, who were both here for the March 2-5 HSBC Women’s World Championship, are among the leading names for the three-day US$1 million (S$1.35 million) tournament at Laguna National Golf Club.

It is part of the Ladies European Tour (LET), which has also seen its purses grow. The 2023 fund is €35 million (S$49.8 million), up from €24.5 million in 2022. Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, is a major sponsor of the LET.

The Series features individual and team events held simultaneously. Its team category is contested over 36 holes over Thursday and Friday with the best two scores counting, while the individual event is a 54-hole stroke play competition.

There are 26 teams, with each comprising three professionals and one amateur. The team drafts took place on Tuesday, with Ko selecting 2020 R&A Women’s Amateur Championship winner Aline Krauter to join her team, who also feature Sweden’s Lisa Pettersson and amateur Andres Acosta Luque.

Since turning professional in 2013, Ko has had few opportunities to compete in team events. She said one of her fondest memories of such formats came at the Queen Sirikit Cup, officially known as the Asia-Pacific Amateur Ladies Golf Team Championship.

She was part of the New Zealand side who finished runners-up at the 2012 edition held in Singapore.

She said: “I love being in that kind of team atmosphere. I’m very proud to wear the New Zealand fern and be able to represent New Zealand....

“I really enjoy playing my share of team events and World Amateur kind of stuff. I feel like those were like a gateway as an amateur to come and play professionally and travel all around the world.”

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