The Ladies European Tour has cancelled five tournaments this season, and they haven't played a tournament since April on the main tour. That has led to speculation that the LET, which goes in 50-50 with the LPGA on the biennial Solheim Cup matches, could fold.
A report in The Times of London reveals a number of players have spoken about their inability to make a living competing solely on the LET, being forced to get secondary jobs to make ends meet as the tour struggles to put together a schedule with meaningful prize money.
The latest tournament cancellation is the Ladies European Masters, slated for September, because of issues with sponsorship. The tournament joins the Buick Championship in China, the Czech Open, the Turkish Ladies Open and another slated Italian event to disappear from the schedule. The Times reports the LET asked its players not to go public with the information and complain on social media.
According to The Times, players have been asked to hold off on booking travel for the Qatar Ladies Open in late November. It's unclear if that messaging is the result of diplomatic unrest in the Middle East involving Qatar or a sponsorship issue.
The next tournament on the LET schedule is this week, with the Ladies European Thailand Championship, the first of 13 scheduled stroke-play events to end the year.
The Times shares that the LET has lost approximately £1 million between 2014 and 2015, based on financial disclosures. The Tour lacks liquidity to finance itself, offering the bulk of its purse money through co-sanctioned events with the LPGA, including the Women's British Open, the Ladies Scottish Open and the Evian Championship. Other purses range from €250,000-€515,000.
The LET is a fundamentally important part of the Solheim Cup, with a third of the team drawn from the points list based on LET earnings. The 12-player European side takes on the 12-player American side this August at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
The LPGA, led by commissioner Mike Whan, could be a savior for the tour were a merger to be initiated. In November 2016, Whan said he was "intrigued" by the idea of the LPGA bringing the LET under its umbrella. Whan said he would treat the tour as a developmental circuit, akin to the U.S.-based Symetra Tour, with smaller purses and a season-long money race to earn LPGA status.
“If the LET asked me to help, and nobody from the LET has, I’d create a 20-tournament schedule, 17 of which would be played in Europe, and we would play for $250,000 to $300,000 [per event],” Whan said. “I wouldn’t go after $1 million sponsors.”