There was a time when women's golf was one of the most obscure and lowest-paying professional sports in the world. Times have changed, and professional women's golf has not only become more mainstream but the paychecks of the professional women golfers keep growing accordingly as well. Many female pro golfers now make millions playing on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour and millions more endorsing products for major brands. While salaries vary widely from struggling players on amateur tours to the top LPGA earners, salaries across the board continue to increase.
Women Golfer's Salaries
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact salary range for women pro golfers as there is a huge disparity between the top earners on the LPGA Tour and the part-time professionals on less competitive tours. Earnings also vary from country to country, and currency fluctuation further complicates the process. However, the LPGA Tour money list is arguably the most accurate barometer for gauging what a top proffessional woman golfer can earn plying her trade. To be sure, professional women golfers are consistently among the top-earning women athletes in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
LPGA Money List
The LPGA money list consists of the annual earnings of the women golfers playing on the LPGA Tour. In 2010, eight women professional golfers earned more than $1 million in tournament prize money. The top earner on the list, Na Yeon Choi, won $1.871 million in 23 LPGA Tour events that year. The lowest LPGA Tour earner in 2010, Jackie Gallagher-Smith, won $1,786 in three events. This wide disparity in salary range reflects the spectrum of talent and earning opportunities for professional women golfers even at the highest level of the game.
Average LPGA Earnings
In 2010, 161 professional women golfers competed on the LPGA Tour. These women earned a combined $35.177 million in tournament prize money. The average annual earnings for a female professional golfer in 2010 were $218,495, according the LPGA's figures. The number of tournaments a player plays in has a major impact on her earnings and the overall pay scale of the sport. The lowest-earning players tended to play in fewer tournaments as just six of the lowest 20 earning women played in more than nine tournaments.
Endorsements figure prominently into the annual salary of some women golfers and skew the pay scale upward. While most professional women golfers earn little or no endorsement compensation, some earn millions. Paula Creamer, for example, made $883,870 playing on the LPGA Tour in 2010, good enough for 10th on the official money list. However, with endorsements, appearance fees and exhibitions, Forbes estimates she earned $5.5 million dollars between July 2010 and July 2011. Including all endorsements and other non-LPGA earnings, the salary range for professional women golfers would likely increase significantly.