Much of what Mel Reid said at the recent GolfSixes tournament about the present state of Ladies European Tour cannot be denied. They do not have enough tournaments – 13 to the 34 of those on offer on the LPGA Tour – and, as a result, some of the players are struggling to make ends meet without the help of a part-time job.
“The LET needs help and quickly,” declared this six-time winner on the circuit, an Englishwoman who also holds an LPGA card and is playing at the US Women’s Open qualifier at the Buckinghamshire on Monday. She added the rider that she was encouraging the LET women to accept those offers of help which first started coming the tour’s way at the time of last year’s Solheim Cup in West Des Moines, Iowa. “I’ve encouraged them to support the offers we get in. It’s all very well for them to be fighting a cause (that of hanging fast to their own tour), but they need to move soon or there could come a day when there’s no tour left to play.”
You have to wonder if this was the right time to be pressing the panic button. After all, Mark Lichtenhein, the new man at the LET’s helm, can hardly have been expected to fill in all the gaps on the schedule in less than a year. It is worth noting that Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner, would be the first to admit that he did not arrive at the LPGA’s figure of 34 tournaments overnight.
In April, at a time when Reid was playing in America, the LET held a players’ meeting in Morocco where they listened to Lichtenhein’s winter update and ended up giving him their full backing.
They said that they were exasperated at having so few events in the first half of the season and Lichtenhein, in turn, told them that those new tournaments which were in the pipeline had been slower to tie up than he had anticipated, according to a source familiar with the proceedings.
Yet there was good news, starting with those four early-season events in Australia which, even if they did not all offer a sound level of prize money, at least provided the chance of a decent run of competitive play. In August, there is a new European Golf Championship at Gleneagles; and then there is a French event, the Estrella Damm Ladies Open, which will take place in September. This is a former LET Access Series tournament which now has the funds to be upgraded to main-tour status.
Again on the plus side, progress is being made in the Nordic countries where the latest seam of emerging players – especially the Swedes – had Annika Sorenstam homing in on their potential at last year’s Evian Championship. Sweden used to hold several LET events when Volvo were looming large in that land and there is every chance that some kindred events will take their place relatively soon.
Besides giving Lichtenhein that vote of confidence, the women made plain that they were not in favour of joining forces with the LPGA, which along with the European Tour and R&A offered the assistance to which Reid was referring. The players worry that by partnering with the LPGA, their status would be reduced to that of the developmental Symetra Tour and that they would be all but forgotten in the process.
In the wake of Reid’s words, it would not be surprising to learn that the women are currently wondering whether to stick with the decisions they made in Morocco or to take heed of Reid. The reason they might be swayed by the Englishwoman is not just because she is a player of note but because she has what it takes to speak with authority. More often than not, she will be the first port of call for reporters looking for a newsworthy item.
What needs to happen now is for the women to decide which route it is they wish to take. And if that’s to go with what they agreed in Morocco, they need to realise that they cannot afford to be cowering in the background while Reid’s words continue to reverberate around the golfing globe.