Golf: Cash the issue, not men-only clubs – Lewis

Stacy Lewis: Good memories. Picture: Getty
Stacy Lewis: Good memories. Picture: Getty
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STACY Lewis, the world No 2, has admitted she is more likely to lie awake at night trying to come to terms with why women golfers don’t earn the same rewards as their male counterparts than men-only clubs.

“I don’t have a problem with the all-male clubs,” said the 28-year-old American, pointing out how she was aware of an all-female club in Canada as she was actually sitting opposite one, the St Rule Club. “If a club wants to be that way on tradition, that’s fine with me. But I think they are missing out on some really great players getting to play their golf course so I think it’s their loss.

“Society has changed. Men and women are on a much more equal footing than we used to be. Augusta National allowing two women [Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore] to join this year was huge for us.”

While the winner of the Ricoh Women’s British Open will walk away with a cheque for just over £260,000 on Sunday night, that is significantly less than the £950,000 Phil Mickelson earned for winning the men’s equivalent at Muirfield just under a fortnight ago.

Yet, at Wimbledon last month, Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli both picked up £1.6 million for their respective singles’ successes in the All-England Championships. “I think that’s the ultimate goal for us, to be playing for the same amount of money as the guys and also playing on the same courses,” admitted Lewis on her more perplexing subject.

“But we struggle to get the recognition and the credibility that we deserve. I think they have a little bit of an advantage in tennis because they are playing at the same place at the same time, whereas we hardly ever even see the guys.

“Somehow we have to get more coverage on TV, more people watching us and getting more people out to tournaments. Women’s sports in general have struggled with prize-money and the amount sponsors are willing to put up.”

If that has anything to do with a belief that the standard of the women’s game is a lot lower than the male version, Lewis said she felt that was almost laughable. “When I’m at home playing with some of the [PGA] Tour players, we play money games and I take their money sometimes,” she added. “I don’t think people realise how good the talent is out here. There are some really great golfers.”

Lewis, who was the 2012 LPGA Player of the Year, underlined her own potential on a visit to St Andrews in 2008, winning all five of her matches in helping the US beat Great Britain & Ireland 13-7 in the Curtis Cup.

“It’s cool to be back as I’ve got a lot of good memories,” she confessed. “I played a practice round yesterday with Alison Walshe and we won three matches together that week. We talked about shots we hit and holes we won.

“Normally, coming into the British Open, I don’t know the golf courses as I’m new to them, so coming here knowing the course is really nice.”

Unlike Inbee Park, Lewis has failed to find top gear so far in this season’s majors. Her ball-striking wasn’t up to scratch in the LPGA Championship, while a cold putter was the problem in both the Kraft Nabisco and US Open. “But I feel like my game is moving in the right direction,” she insisted, pointing to a brace of top-tens either side of the US Open for proof.