‘We wanted to innovate’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 5, 2022 11:06

With so much focus on LIV Golf recently, you might not have noticed the growth the professional women’s game is experiencing, driven by a desire to move in creative directions such as team formats and on-course DJs. Here, LET CEO Alexandra Armas outlines what’s been happening to elevate the women’s game.

The Ladies European Tour (LET) remains open to embracing more new and unique approaches to elite level tournament golf as a means of elevating the women’s game, says Tour CEO Alexandra Armas. This year’s season calendar is the most lucrative in LET history, with 34 events across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and as far afield as the United States and Australia.

In many aspects, the Ladies European Tour returned from the pandemic stronger than it went in.

Last season’s introduction of the Aramco Team Series (ATS) events brought four new $1 million prize-fund tournaments to the calendar, taking the Tour to London, Sotogrande in Spain, New York and Jeddah for three days of team competition intertwined with individual scoring.

Its format brought something entirely new and different to the game. Each ATS event sees up to 36 team captains pick a team-mate, then be assigned a randomly selected third team-mate and an amateur golfer, who plays with a handicap. Together, they then compete over Thursday and Friday as a fourball, with the two lowest scores per hole recorded and the lowest total score winning.

The concept of a combined team and individual tournament came from Armas herself and was backed by Golf Saudi and their sponsor Aramco.

Team Garcia celebrate their victory at the Aramco Team Series London at Centurion Club in June

At the Aramco Team Series London at Centurion Club in June, Team Garcia were the winner, with Nicole Garcia, Madelene Stavnar and Kelly Whaley sharing the $105,000 winner’s cheque, and amateur Mia Baker, who plays off a 16 handicap, making up the fourth member of the team.

The event was perhaps better remembered for Bronte Law holing out for an eagle from 55 feet on the final green to win the individual tournament by a shot, and scoop the $75,000 first prize. Just days earlier Law sparked a debate by saying that golf should emulate tennis and stage men’s and women’s tournaments at the same courses and at roughly the same time.

“The perfect example is tennis. Why do the women get paid more than we do? The reason is because they play on the same site and they get the same media coverage,” she said. “So if we can play at the same course, get the same TV coverage, there’s no reason why our purses can’t increase.”

“It’s exciting growth,” said Armas, now into her third year as head of the LET. “Coming out of the pandemic we were looking for partners that would not just allow us to push the Tour forward, but also offer a strategic commitment to our players. The partnership with Golf Saudi and Aramco has helped us to achieve that.

“The players enjoy playing in the team format and the organisation around each of the series’ events, from the quality of the courses to the build, facilities and the hospitality around them is elevating the standards across the board. To many of our members, these events feel like majors – and they look forward to playing in them almost as much.”

Armas continued: “In devising the concept for the Aramco Team Series events, we wanted to innovate and do something different. The LET is looking at ways of engaging with our fanbase to get them hooked on watching golf more regularly. New creative ideas and different ways of doing things can help with that.”

Ladies European Tour CEO Alexandra Armas

The Aramco Team Series certainly does encompass everything Armas seeks to achieve Tour-wide. While attracting the biggest names in golf, they also mix things up – from its format and NFL-style draft, to players walking onto the tee to their choice of music. Events last year also had live on-course DJs and ice cream stops, examples of other non-traditional approaches designed to change and retune the tone.

“The Aramco Team Series events appeal to established golf fans and the next generation coming into the game,” said Armas. “Each of the ATS events last year brought about some truly thrilling golf and epic climaxes, with three of them going to play-offs. Our refined format for this year will only heighten that experience – for players and fans alike.”

Deputy chairman and CEO of Golf Saudi, Majed al Sorour, added: “The format of the Aramco Team Series was a prospect that we were desperate to be involved in from the get-go – and for a debut event, it could really not have gone any better last year. The players loved it and it allowed us to grow the women’s game, including by taking the Ladies European Tour to the States for the first time in its history with the Aramco Team Series – New York.”

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 5, 2022 11:06
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1 Comment

  1. Amelia August 5, 11:38

    Really enjoyed listening to Alex on the panel at The R&A’s Women’s Leadership Forum yesterday at the AIG Women’s Open. Completely agree that golf can get creative to engage and appeal to a wider audience.

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