The Ladies European Tour appears on the brink of collapse, following the cancellation of its flagship event, the Ladies European Masters.
Reported in The Times today, the tournament becomes the fifth event of the year to be dropped from what was already a sparse schedule, and comes amidst fears of severe financial problems for the Buckinghamshire-based Tour.
The news is just the latest blow for the players, who have competed in only four events this season, the last being the Mediterannian Open, which took place over two months ago. Unsurprisingly, the situation is creating increasing anger among the players, who despite finding it impossible to make a living, have been urged by the Tour to keep their frustrations to themselves.
Although the schedule picks up in the latter half of the year, the majority of the events planned are set to take place in Asia and the Middle East, creating financial problems in regard to travel for players who have been unable to earn a pay check for the majority of the year. Indeed, Klara Spilkova, who leads this year’s LET Money List, has made a mere £61,501 in 2017, a sum that would currently rank 72nd on the thriving US-based LPGA Tour.
Perhaps more concerning are the latest accounts from the LET, also published today in The Times, which show that the Tour lost almost £1 million in 2014 and 2015, and while this figure is said to have swallowed up assets held by the Tour, the economic feasibility of the Tour going forward must now be in doubt.
Players have also been told not to book travel for the Qatar Ladies Open, which is likely to be added to The Buick Championship in Shanghai, the Czech Open, the Turkish Ladies Open, and an event planned in Southern Europe, is being scrapped from the schedule.
A player who wished to remain anonymous told the paper: “We do fear the financial collapse of the tour, especially when you look at the accounts. There are so few events now that earning a living is becoming impossible for many of the players. It is much worse than it used to be. Apart from the very top players we are like seasonal workers, earning a bit on the main tour and then having to play mini tours, which don’t make any money, and corporate days. We can’t commit to other work as the cancelling of events comes so late in the day.’
“There have now been five tournaments cancelled since February and the email about the Ladies Masters was another massive blow. Then we get told that we should not go public about this.''
“This mess has to be put at the door of the management — we pay their salaries through a 7 per cent levy on our prize money, and they are not producing.’'
The limited schedule has long been cause for concern for Solheim Cup captain, Annika Sorenstam, who in a recent interview with Women & Golf implored the national governing bodies to stand up and help take some responsibility for the spiralling situation in Europe.
While the top players on the LPGA are playing week in, week out, Georgia Hall, who currently leads the LET Solheim Cup points list, arrives at this week’s KMPG Women’s Championship having now not played for two months, not exactly ideal preparation for a major, or for the transatlantic match-up which takes place at Des Moines Country Club, Iowa, in just eight weeks’ time.
Her opening round five-over-par 77, perhaps testament to the need for the top players to be competing on a weekly basis.
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