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Stop Saying Men Are Better Golfers Than Women – Here’s Proof They’re Not

Sportette founder Sam Squiers for TaylorMade Golf. Photo: Full Frame Photographics

There’s a massive divide in golf funding, sponsorship and prizes for women golfers. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation revealed that women’s sports received 7% of coverage and only 0.4% of commercial sponsorships in 2013.

One of the frustrating justifications for this that circulate around numerous golf courses is that women’s golfers aren’t as good as the men.

It may surprise you then that professional women golfers are better than men in a number of key factors across the game.

Take driving accuracy, the top 5 female players of last year by CMBE rankings all achieved a higher driving accuracy percentage than 4 out of 5 of the top 5 men’s players in the world last year, only Henrik Stenson matched them.

It may surprise you then that professional women golfers are better than men in a number of key factors across the game.

Greens in Regulation, which is the number of greens hit that are within range on any given round,  was another area where women performed better, much better in fact. Again Henrik Stenson was the only professional male golfer in the top 5 to reach a GIR percentage similar to the top 5 female golfers. Moreover, in 2015 Henrik Stenson was hailed for his achievements in tallying the best GIR score since Tiger Woods in 2006. Tiger’s score in 2006 was 74.15%, yet LPGA athlete Lexi Thompson achieved 77.23% Greens in Regulation in 2015, higher than Henrik, higher than Tiger in 2006, and higher than the all-time men’s record but you probably didn’t hear about that.

The same story runs through professional golf history as that same year, in 2006, when Tiger shot the second highest GIR percentage achieved in the men’s Tour history, Lorena Ochoa made 75.5%. And the best score since the Tour started recording this statistic, was 75.15% by Tiger in 2000. Five female professionals shot a higher GIR percentage last season than that all-time men’s record held by Tiger. The best females have performed better than men in this regard for years – Kelly Robbins averaged 78.7% GIR in ’97, Annika Sorenstam scored 79.7% in ‘01 & ’02, so women have been outperforming men in this statistic for years.

You may say, that women play shorter courses and are able to achieve a better GIR. Which is partly true as the average yardage for an LPGA Tour Golf course is 6,400 yards. Compare that to men’s, which is 7,200 yards, that’s an 800 yard difference in total. But considering men have a 50 yard advantage over women on average per drive, this gives them at maximum an extra 900 yards over 18 holes. So on the whole the state of play is fair. And comparing women’s performance stats to men’s directly is a fair trial. The stats don’t lie, women compete at the same level as men, and in some cases outperform them, so we ask again, why don’t they get the same exposure, pay or respect?

In reality, it’s not as simple as being paid the same. Workplace pay equality is still being fought across all industries and for professional athletes, it can be more complicated. There is not a set wage for a professional golfer, and there are no employers to take to task, only prize winnings and sponsorships by big corporates. Yet, this can be made fairer. It takes investment from both endemic and non-endemic industries, to help foster the women’s game. These companies can help level the playing field when it comes to tournament prize money by offering the same rewards to winners of the women’s tournaments.

 Women deserve equality for their achievements, and fair coverage. It’s as simple as that

Do men have a responsibility?

Yes, they do owe it to their female competitors. If respect means anything in sport, then professional men have a responsibility to ask why there is an imbalance on behalf of their counterparts. Phil Mickelson’s relationship with KPMG brought about their sponsorship of Stacy Lewis last year, the first time they sponsored a female athlete. KPMG also made the commitment to sponsor the Women’s PGA Championship for the next five years as a result, increasing the prize winnings to $3.5 million, more than doubling the previous purse. It also gained weekend network coverage on NBC and the Golf Channel. So, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy; what are you doing for women’s golf?

Golf will feature in the Olympics for the first time in over a century this summer in Rio. When it last participated in the games there were only two competing nations, USA and Canada and, you guessed it, only one gender participating. A Canadian named George Lyon won gold for the individual event and the USA came first, second and third in the team event. Which seems farfetched in comparison to the 36 nations currently qualifying for the men’s individual event and 34 nations for the women’s at Rio. The scale of the golf game has grown incredibly in a century, and the inclusion of women was compulsory this time round.

In Greek mythology the Olympics were a time for peace during war between conflicting city-states, and the victors were hailed and immortalised in poems and statues. Just like the legend, let’s honour our sporting women like the Greeks did thousands of years ago. Women deserve equality for their achievements, and fair coverage. It’s as simple as that.

Written by Louis Cooper, HR manager at golfsupport.com.

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