When a sophomore LPGA player Allisen Corpuz hit on her final putt on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links this month, she won the US Women’s Open with a memorable final round, besting the leader and holding off an emerging challenger in Charley Hull.
Corpuz also collected a first-place check for $2 million, more than double what Annika Sorenstam earned for her combined three victories at the US Women’s Open.
Despite losing ProMedica, the health care company, as title sponsor of the Open, the United States Golf Association increased the total prize pool by $1 million to $11 million this year.
It’s part of a broader movement in women’s professional golf to increase sponsorship of tournaments as well as individual golfers. In recent years, prize pools have risen at tournaments, new sponsors have sought out golfers, and even players not at the top of their careers have reaped the benefits.
“Elevating portfolios continues to elevate everyone,” said Mollie Marcoux Samaan, commissioner of the LPGA.
At the tour level, the LPGA has been increasing prize money for players up and down the tour rankings. This year, the total purse for 36 official events is over $100 million. Ten years ago, that figure was $49 million, but even in 2021 it was hovering around $70 million.
Last year, 27 LPGA players won $1 million in prize money (up from 15 the year before). That number still pales in comparison to the men’s PGA Tour, where, last year, 126 players won more than $1 million. (Only 125 players have full-exempt status on the PGA Tour, which means that even players who couldn’t play every event or qualified for every major earned more than the top LPGA players.)
However, Samaan and other leaders are also focused on individual players. The LPGA said that from 2021 to 2022, the world’s No. 1 player earned 22 percent more, but the 50th-ranked player saw her earnings rise 44 percent. The 100th ranked player got a 30 percent raise, from $128,000 to $167,000.
While the best players in any sport will always be well compensated, golf is unique in that many of the players in each tournament are knocked out and sometimes not paid at all for the week.
“We are also looking at our partners and not just how to grow the portfolios, but also help on the expense side,” Samaan said. “Some of the challenges our players face is that half of them can’t play on the weekend of every week. Some sponsors include failed payments. Some offer stipends or travel vouchers to cover basic expenses. But not all of them.
Another factor driving the increased interest—and money—in women’s golf is the desire of companies to sponsor both men and women. While a journeyman player on the PGA Tour has rarely sought an endorser, women, even those just below the upper ranks, have often struggled.
Many companies, as part of broader diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, are looking to onboard female players. First in this it was KPMG, who led the way, and set a new standard, by continuing to pay stacy lewis under her sponsorship deal when she had her daughter in 2018.
Previously, golfers had to play a certain number of events to receive all of their sponsorship dollars. Instead, KPMG chose to do what it would have done for an employee who went on family leave. Many other patrons have followed suit.
Aon, the risk management consulting firm, now offers equal prize money to men and women for its year-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge, which evaluates a player’s overall score on a challenging hole in the tournament of weekly.
Lizette Salas, ranked 80th in the world and in his 12th year as a pro, is sponsored by Aon. She said the conversations she’s had with sponsors were radically different today than when she started.
“At first the talks were short,” he said. “I was pretty much pitching myself, rather than having an agent or a manager do it. Now that the investments are increasing, the conversation between the player and the sponsor has changed. A more personal relationship has been created between the executives and the player. I’m a big diversity and inclusion person. Many of the companies that sponsor me have also taken that big step in their companies. It’s refreshing.
Smaller companies have also joined the support of LPGA players. Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia-based law firm, has sponsored PGA Tour players for several years. This year, he added ally ewingwho was the 2016 LPGA Rookie of the Year, finished 11th at this year’s US Women’s Open and is ranked 36th in the world.
“When we decided that sponsoring players was part of our brand strategy, we wanted to make sure it was inclusive,” said Michael Heller, Cozen O’Connor CEO and CEO. “We wanted him to represent our firm and our clients. It was important to add a player”.
The company selected Ewing because of his story: battling Type 1 diabetes and winning at every level of the game.
Law firms, as well as insurance and financial services companies, are natural candidates for the LPGA, given the history in those industries of using golf for entertainment and marketing.
Hull, the British golfer who excelled at the US Women’s Open, has a significant social media presence that has earned her support from a variety of sponsors, including traditional golf brands such as TaylorMade, financial adviser Hachiko Financial and a supplement of wellness. .
“My first sponsors were brands already in golf looking to activate their partnerships, like Ricoh at the Women’s British Open or Omega at the Olympics,” said Hull. “Now I feel like my sponsors are more personal to me, like Drink Mojo, which is a supplement I use, or Hachiko, who help educate me about investing.”
Hull said her sponsors have changed as she’s grown as a player, and that’s fine with her.
“As I’ve grown and matured, so have my sponsors, and that’s not always just on my behalf,” he said. “A sponsor might be looking for a specific type of person to fit their role as an ambassador, so as he gets older, he might no longer be the type of person he’s looking for.”
The best players, who have the ability to transcend the sport, have more power to negotiate deals with their sponsors. Jessica Korda, who was ranked 14th in the world last year before a back injury, signed a deal with FootJoy to wear her clothing from head to toe. she was the first player sign such an agreement with FootJoy.
She especially appreciates the sponsors who were with her when she started.
“My rookie year , I played in 14 or 15 events,” Korda said, and won about $50,000. “So having a sponsor really helped me cover my costs. We do not have a health service. We have to pay a lot out of pocket. The costs are quite high.”
Korda, who has made $7.6 million on the golf course, said he is now hopeful that the players will come out of college, in a different sponsorship environment.
“It allows them to play with a little less pressure and not go from paycheck to paycheck. Having that comfort was huge for me back then. Now it’s aligning with brands that I really enjoy.”