As befits an organization whose officers appear to have left the Mayflower in golf spikes, the USGA has always maintained a Puritan aversion to mixing its championships and commercialism. And with few resisters remaining in the sports world, where almost everything that makes sense has been swapped for the highest bid, there is an endearing nobility obligated in its long-held stance that U.S. national titles do not. are not for sale.
This sensitivity, ironically enough, requires a subsidy through trade. The US Open, which begins June 17 in Torrey Pines, Calif., Generates around $ 165 million a year, including broadcast fees, business partnerships, ticket sales and merchandise – that’s three-quarters of USGA revenues. The US Open is the golden nipple that feeds all of the governing body’s many other engagements, including the 13 other USGA Championships contested each year.
One of those, the US Women’s Open, will be held for the 76th time this week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. It is the premier event in women’s golf, unrivaled in longevity or stature. But the Women’s Open also loses $ 9 million each year. This could partly explain the yawning chasm in silver prizes. The Torrey Pines scholarship will be $ 12.5 million, of which $ 2.25 million will go to the winner. Whoever is crowned Sunday at the Olympic Club receives $ 1 million out of $ 5.5 million. The US Open offers the tallest handbags in the male and female majors.
This financial data could be on the verge of being revised.
In what would be a seismic change for the USGA, sources say Golfweek the organization is in the process of signing a sponsor for the US Women’s Open, which could make it the first national championship with the company’s branding. While no major men’s player has a title sponsor, the US Women’s Open is the only one of the five women’s majors that doesn’t. The presence of commercial entities such as KPMG, AIG, Evian and ANA in the titles of major championships lays bare the economic reality of women’s golf.
I asked USGA brand director Craig Annis if a main sponsor was likely.
“We are not looking for a title sponsor for the US Women’s Open,” he replied emphatically.
How about a “presenter” sponsor, in which the corporate branding comes after the title of the event?
“I wouldn’t rule that out,” Annis said. “We are always looking at more ways to provide corporate support to our championships and our programs and services.”
Annis declined to speculate on the potential price of any sponsorship – a source familiar with the pitch puts it at between $ 7 million and $ 10 million – and has not confirmed whether a deal is struck. “We would never divulge any conversation until it was ready to go public,” he said.
On paper, such sponsorship could mean that the Women’s Open even weighs financially, but that can’t be the only goal. The USGA will not allow corporate barbarians to walk through doors just to reduce the amount of red ink on a tournament record. Its goal must certainly be progress for a greater cause.
Equal price, perhaps?
In tennis, the US Open instituted equal prize money in 1973. The other Slams caught up in the 2000s. (The economics of golf is obviously different because the men’s and women’s events do not run simultaneously. on the same site). Equal prize money has never been a hallmark of professional golf, and the day when it could be still seems woefully far away. I asked Annis if having equal prices for the US Open and the US Women’s Open is a USGA aspiration.
“We have already said that our long-term vision is to work to achieve equity parity,” he replied. “In the short term, we will continue to be leaders among the majors.”
Which suggests that adding a sponsor to the Women’s Open would not be about reducing losses, but rather increasing the prize fund significantly.
The effort to attract a business partner for the Women’s Open predates the hiring of Mike Whan as the new CEO of the USGA, but it goes hand in hand with his experience and skills. Whan takes office on July 1 and represents a break from the customary succession process in Liberty Corner, NJ Much like the old Soviet politburo, USGA leaders generally rose through the ranks, steeped in rules and protocols , with a blade hidden in their blazer for internal politics.
In his last post as commissioner of the LPGA Tour, Whan was necessarily more a marketer than a manager. He knows the importance of the message, the gestures, the symbolism and the action. Especially when it comes to a governing body.
The USGA has spent a lot of time talking about women’s golf in recent years. We will probably now see silver supporting sentiment. Comrade Whan will quickly come to appreciate the options available to an organization that benefits from its own revenues from broadcast rights and healthy cash reserves.
Dramatically raising the purse at the US Women’s Open would have a worrying ripple effect: making the title’s other big sponsors look cheap in comparison (KPMG, AIG, and Evian are funding $ 4.5 million in prizes while ANA’s is $ 3.1 million). It wouldn’t start an arms race with cash prizes – there isn’t enough money in women’s golf for that – but it would raise the question of how sustainable it could be for other sponsors. just keep up with the pace. Still, that’s not a compelling reason not to inject bigger rewards into women’s football, especially against the backdrop of an acceleration in men’s cash-making.
Whatever action the USGA takes – signing championship sponsors, raising the purse for a money-losing event, seeking longer-term equality – will be controversial. His critiques will always include those who demonstrate the truth in Oscar Wilde’s aphorism about people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If the USGA signs a sponsor for the Women’s Open, it shouldn’t be seen as a dirty hocking of a legacy, but rather a simple recognition that the women’s game can only go so far thanks to spinoff income from the men.