The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, November 28, 2019
LPGA and LET merge — Interview with 6-time LET winner Mel Reid — Must-click links in women's golf
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LPGA and LET Joint Venture
If you’re in tune with women’s golf at all, you know that the LPGA and LET officially announced a 50-50 joint venture on Tuesday (Nov. 25). I’ve read all the different news articles announcing the partnership and it’s still a little difficult for me to visualize how exactly them joining forces will look from here on out. The most obvious advantage is expanding the LET schedule with the help of the LPGA’s resources. But other than that, the vision being communicated is pretty broad from both parties.
You can see what I mean if you check out the official release from the Ladies European Tour, but here’s what the LET Board Chair and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan had to say about it.
“Two teams, joining for one common purpose, will create opportunities we simply could not have pursued on our own,” said LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti. “At its foundation, this joint venture is about creating opportunities for our members to pursue their passion, and their careers as professional athletes. In just the 60 days since we began working on this joint venture, we have already seen a dramatic impact on our LET Tour schedule – an impact that will be a positive result for virtually all of our LET Members.”
We know that these two entities coming together will result in increased resources, which will hopefully translate to increased prize money, increased sponsorship dollars, increased tv coverage and a schedule with more enticing events. Whan did, however, want to make it clear that just because it’s a 50-50 joint venture doesn’t mean the LPGA will be making huge financial gains. In other words, all the proceeds will stay in Europe. The LPGA can put money in, but can’t take it back out.
“This is an exciting next step for the LPGA’s mission to provide more opportunities for women in this game. Over the past 10 years, the LPGA has had tremendous success partnering with other golf stakeholders, including the USGA, PGA Tour, European Tour, R&A and PGA of America, to enhance opportunities for women worldwide. We are thrilled to deepen our relationship with the Ladies European Tour in an effort to create the strongest possible women’s tour in Europe,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “We have experienced incredible growth in women’s golf in the U.S., and this is an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate and expand the game in Europe as well. I’m excited that this is something we will build together, with the LET.”
It’s not much of a secret the LET has struggled as of the last two years, with tournaments and sponsors dropping like flies. If anyone can help them get out of this hole, it’s Mike Whan, who helped the LPGA emerge from its financial woes 10 years ago. If the LPGA was a stock today, I’d definitely buy it, and I think a lot of others would as well. Success is at an all-time high and it’s still trending up. And given the players voted in overwhelming favor of this joint venture, I think that speaks to the amount of trust and respect Whan has in all professional women’s golfers.
Azahara Munoz, who has membership on both the LPGA and LET told Golfweek it almost seemed too good to be true—and that there is nothing to lose for players on both sides. To provide more perspective on the LET’s struggles, the schedule was comprised of 28 tournaments nearly 10 years ago. And in 2017, was down to 15. This means that players don’t even have the opportunity to play every week and probably have to take extended breaks. That’s not ideal for any professional athlete.
“When I go back to Europe and play, you can tell that they haven’t been competing,” said Munoz. “Some of them have a second job. it’s so hard to compete at a high level not playing.”
Similar to Munoz, England native Mel Reid also has membership on both tours. She experienced a lot of success on the LET, winning six times, so she can provide more insight on what exactly this means for both parties. She’s been outspoken about the LET and its struggles in the past and has more to say now that it’s official. Head on down to the interview section for her take on the perks and downfalls of the two leagues coming together as one.
This Week in Women’s Golf
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Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Mel Reid
To gain some more perspective on the the LPGA and LET joining forces to create more opportunities for women’s golf, I talked to Mel Reid, who experienced tremendous success on the LET when she played full-time from 2007 until 2016. Having won six-times on the LET and earned over $1 million in prize money before earning her LPGA card in 2017, she has been in the thick of the LET’s struggles and seen the growth of the LPGA firsthand.
Q: What is your gut reaction to the 50-50 joint venture between the LPGA and LET?
A: I think its a really strong decision and something that had to happen. It will do wonders for women’s golf in Europe. It will be so nice to actually have a strong ladies tour in Europe once again and hopefully stronger than it’s ever been. I saw the LET at its best at the start of my career. I feel like now with the help from Mike Whan and his team at the LPGA, we can get it back to a healthy, thriving tour.
Q: You’ve been outspoken in the past about how the LET is struggling and needs help. What are these struggles that you’ve seen first-hand?
A: We lost events, we lost money, a lot of girls had to get part time jobs that have been out on the tour for 10 plus years; It’s a very different tour than when I first came out and I felt it was such a great stepping stone to either moving onto LPGA or staying in Europe for their career. So for me personally, it was very sad to see the decline of it—something which I believe is a great product.
Q: Being someone that experienced a lot of success on the LET, what do you think will be the biggest benefits for players on the LET moving forward?
A: They will have tournaments to play in in Europe, which is huge. Girls will be able to start making a living through golf in Europe again. I think that a lot more people from LPGA will come back and play more events in Europe—making it generally a stronger tour than it’s ever been. I want to support a tour that I grew up on; I’d love to support my home event and hopefully now this venture will give me that opportunity to come back and play more in Europe rather than solely playing on the LPGA like I have been.
Q: Are there any downfalls to the two entities coming together that maybe us on the outside looking in don’t see or understand right now?
A: I think that the girls that have been journey professionals, so consistently mediocre during their career, that’s who it will probably effect the most. It will make the LET stronger as I pointed out before because players will go out of their way to play in Europe, which is something that hasn’t happened in the past. It will now be a great platform like it once was for girls who aspire to go on to the LPGA.
Q: How do you think move will effect the Solheim Cup?
A: It will only make the European team stronger. You now have girls who will play full schedules in Europe, who now once again have an opportunity to represent Europe in a Solheim Cup. Not only that, hopefully now having more events in Europe, it will grow interest from all aspects. If we’re hosting really strong tour events in Europe, hopefully that will spark interest in more areas of European golf from a player and spectator/fan point of view.