The LPGA and Ladies European Tour are joining forces in what's being dubbed a 50-50 partnership, with the joint goal of further developing women's professional golf in Europe.
After years of courtship, some resistance and continued conversations, the arrangement was approved by Ladies European Tour players during their Nov. 26 annual membership meeting in Spain ahead of the season-ending tournament. The vote came after LPGA commissioner Mike Whan flew to Spain following his tour's season-ending CME Group Tour Championship to make a final appeal.
The venture will be jointly managed by the LPGA and the LET, with the goal of increasing playing opportunities and purses. In recent years, LET players have needed to take on second jobs to make ends meet. The Ladies European Tour had 20 official money events this year, but the tour has struggled in recent years to develop tournaments outside of those co-sanctioned by the LPGA or other governing bodies. With a potentially more robust schedule, the LET may also offer a pathway to LPGA membership.
“This is an exciting next step for the LPGA’s mission to provide more opportunities for women in this game," said Whan. "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.
“We have experienced incredible growth in women’s golf in the US, 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.”
Whan recently signed a long-term extension to continue in his role at the LPGA. Now he's adding a new partnership to his portfolio.
The LET is in need of stability in leadership, as it's looking for its third chief executive in five years after Mark Lichtenhein stepped down following a successful 2019 Solheim Cup.
“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."
Work had been done on the partnership before the affirming vote, and the impact was apparently immediate.
"In just the 60 days since we began working on this joint venture," said Figueras-Dotti, "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."