Karrie Webb is concerned about the how the new Saudi-backed men’s LIV Golf tour, which has had controversial beginnings, will impact the women’s game.
The seven-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer said Wednesday on the Golf Channel that while there should be more opportunities for women to play the game, women’s golfers should think twice about any future women’s LIV tour.
“As women I feel like we should be standing with all women,” she said. “And the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, we shouldn’t be supporting that.”
LIV Golf is funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In late May, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said that the LPGA and LET had been approached by LIV Golf with an offer of a “substantial investment.” According to Norman, both tours rejected the offer.
The LPGA, however, denied Norman’s claims, saying in a statement, “The LPGA Tour has not received an offer from LIV Golf.”
Webb said she hopes that the LPGA Tour’s roots will guide golfers’ decision-making in regard to the LIV Tour. From the beginning, the LPGA has pushed back against discrimination. The tour coined the term “Act like a founder,” which helps guide its culture as it combats racism, sexism, discrimination and bias.
“When our founders started this tour, they refused to play at clubs that didn’t allow Black players or Hispanic players, and they needed to play every opportunity they could and they still refused to do that,” Webb said. “So I feel like when we say, ‘Act like a founder,’ we really need to take a page from that book.”
Still, Webb knows that the money could be too good to pass up for some younger players. Reported signing fees for this week’s LIV Golf men’s event are as much as $200 million. For women’s players, the winner of the upcoming tournament in New Jersey will receive $262,500. Approximately half the field will not receive a check.
“I feel for younger players that … feel the need to go there,” added Webb. “I understand that. I think if I was a younger player with no money in my pocket, I’d probably be going, but from my standpoint, and the age that I’m at, you know, I feel like as women we need to stand together.”
LPGA prize purses have been increasing, if slowly. At the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open, players were playing for a $10 million purse.