Meghan MacLaren: British golf star discusses LIV Golf Tour & gender equality

Meghan MacClaren

English professional golfer Meghan MacLaren joined Sue Anstiss on the latest season of The Game Changers podcast. 

MacLaren is a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour and has a hugely popular blog and social media presence. 

Having graduated from Florida University in 2016, with a degree in English and Political Science, the 28-year-old went on to become a member of the victorious 2016 Curtis Cup team and received the LET Order of Merit the following year. 

In a fascinating discussion, MacLaren opened up on the gender issues that exist in golf, her thoughts on the new LIV Golf Tour and whether she still has the same love for the game. 

A quote on MacLaren’s blog reads as follows:

I, personally, consider myself ridiculously lucky. I get to do the thing I am obsessed with for a living.

“I have a chance to achieve success, to receive acclaim, and to be part of a conversation that drives progress. I am indebted to the women who came before, as we all are.”

Within her blog, which she first started back in 2015, the British golfer regularly reflects on her life as a professional and how lucky she is to play the sport for a living. 

Yet, MacLaren also details the problems within the game and how there are still a number of inequalities facing women’s golf that need to be addressed. 

Meg MacClaren

“I think exposure is still the main one,” she told Anstiss, when outlining these issues. “I would never argue necessarily that we, as women in golf deserve exactly the same amount of money as the men when it comes to prize money, because I understand that there are a lot of factors that influence it and people aren’t just gonna throw marketing and sponsorship dollars at a sport that doesn’t receive the same amount of TV revenue as the men’s game. 

“But it just needs to be given a similar opportunity to grow as the men’s game has been. And then you can start to see prize funds increase and whether it has to come from the top down to filter into grassroots, or it needs to go from the bottom up. I’m not sure what the answers are, but I think at every single level if more opportunities are given then revenue will increase across the board.”

On one level, female golfers are among the highest-paid athletes in the world. Yet, there are only a handful of women earning the big bucks and the disparity in prize money compared to the men’s game remains sizeable. 

MacLaren revealed that a number of female golfers struggle to even break even over the course of a single season –– barely making enough to cover costs. 

Meg MacLaren

“It’s hard to explain to people that yes, there are opportunities and the opportunities are getting better and better, but it’s still like that across the board,” she said. 

“So you can have a really good year and earn maybe £70,000 or $70,000, but your expenses are going to be close to that for a year. And I think that’s also the bit that people don’t always grasp when you’ve also got your living costs on top of that and we have to pay for rent and pay for fuel and groceries the same as everybody else. So the actual cost of being a professional golfer is probably a lot more than people realise.”

Though the prize money in the women’s game remains a long way apart from the men’s game, mixed events between male and female players are helping to offer better financial opportunities. 

In June, the DP World Tour and the Ladies European Tour held a joint event in Scandinavia. The event was won by 22-year-old female star Lin Grant, who obliterated the field and finished nine shots ahead of former Open champion Henrik Stensen in second.

“It was a pretty extraordinary moment for golf as a whole, to be honest, not just for women’s golf,” MacLaren said. 

“My personal preference would be to have the men and women in the same place and playing for the same amount of money but in two different tournaments. 

“But having said all of that, seeing what happened and the reaction to it just made me sit back and go, you know what, this is exactly why we needed something like this and fair play to the people who have made it happen.”

Currently, MacLaren plays on the European circuit, which includes the LET Access feeder series and the Ladies European Tour. The Brit has won three times on the latter, the last of which came in April this year at the Australian Ladies Classic. 

While she’s proud of her success so so far, particularly her first victory at the New South Wales Women’s Open in 2018, her ambition is to play regularly on the LPGA Tour, with the likes of Minjee Lee and Nelly Korda.

“The schedule now across the past couple of years has got a lot stronger. So there’s probably around 30 tournaments this year and they can be in Asia, they can be obviously in Europe and we’ve been to Australia. There are lots of other tours all around the world, but the LPGA in America would be what’s considered the strongest. That’s where the majority of the best players in the world are.”

Meghan MacLaren

One of the principal issues concerning golf of late has been the new Saudi Arabian-funded LIV Golf Tour. The tour is offering huge prize funds and even bigger signing bonuses to lure the biggest men’s players in the game over to their events. 

This has raised huge ethical dilemmas and MacLaren herself chose not to play a women’s event that was funded by Saudi money. 

“I decided not to play because to me, from the information that I read and the things that you see on the news, I felt like it was all part of a sportswashing kind of set-up and I just didn’t feel comfortable being part of it. 

“I didn’t feel like I could kind of be the authentic version of myself that I want to portray and whether it’s writing or social media or my golf performance, to me, they’re all connected. And that’s the bit that I struggled with separating.”

Addressing the topic of the LIV Tour specifically, MacLaren stated emphatically that she was not a fan. 

​”I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. I don’t like what’s happening. but that’s probably from a broader sense than just what’s happening in golf. This whole kind of principle of throwing lots and lots of money at people to promote your image when it doesn’t seem like things are really changing.” 

MacLaren is a fan of Newcastle United, a side that has recently been bought by Saudi owners themselves and the golf star is currently trying to come to terms with the club she loves being run by a regime she hates. 

“Like I said, with football, Newcastle United are a team that I’ve supported since before I could walk and I’m so passionate about. We’ve waited a long time to have sort of an injection of energy and positivity in our club. So on the one hand, I think that’s incredibly exciting, but then obviously there’s a conflict with what I believe. So it’s can you enjoy one thing and acknowledge that you’re uncomfortable with another?”

Regardless of her thoughts on the Saudi tours, MacLaren admitted she could never step away from the game entirely. She has plenty left that she wants to achieve in the sport of golf and has a desire to make a lasting impact on the game for good. 

“I don’t think I could leave the game completely. I’m too obsessed with it. You know, there are so many things about it that fascinate me that I don’t think I could do something different. So whether it would be working in the media in some capacity or writing about it in some capacity, I would like to leave golf better than it was whenever I came to it.”

This article was produced in partnership with The Game Changers podcast, which is supported by Sport England. You can listen to the full episode with Meghan MacLaren here.

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