Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club


LPGA continues to explore possible merger with LET as commissioner discusses idea with players

April 01, 2023

LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan speaks with the media during a roundtable at the CME Group Tour Championship last November.

Michael Reaves

PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. — The LPGA Tour is continuing to explore a possible landmark change in women’s golf as officials consider a merger with the Ladies European Tour. During the final half hour of a two-hour mandatory player meeting at last week’s Drive On Championship outside Phoenix, the first full field LPGA event of the 2023 season, LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, Chief of Marketing Matt Chmura, and Chief Legal and IT Officer Liz Moore discussed with players the potential of the two tours combining.

Multiple sources who attended the meeting tell Golf Digest that the discussion did not include many specifics regarding what a merger might look like. Rather, LPGA officials spoke more broadly about TV viewership goals, purse growth and how a merger could grow women’s golf overall.

Asked to comment about what was presented at the meeting, an LPGA spokesperson said the “information discussed at LPGA Player meetings is for the benefit of our athletes.” As for the status of the discussions about a merger, the spokesperson issued the following statement:

“When the LPGA partnered with the LET and formed the joint venture in 2019, the goal was to strengthen women's golf. The partnership has been successful. As was reported earlier this year, we're evaluating what the next iteration of our relationship looks like with the goal of continuing to enhance opportunities for members on all tours and strengthening the women’s game globally.

“We’ve spoken with members about the partnership and potential opportunities, and we’ll continue to do that as we evaluate the next steps in our relationship with the LET.

The potential for the two tours to join together is, indeed, a natural evolution of the strategic alignment the spokesperson referenced between the LPGA and LET that was signed in 2019. At that time, the LET was struggling financially. The two tours agreed to a multi-year arrangement where they would run the LET 50-50.

Then LPGA commissioner Mike Whan structured the deal so that the LPGA could send capital in but can’t take any out. “I want to make sure the European Tour players know that this is not some American growth strategy,” Whan said.

Since then, the LET has experienced rapid growth. In 2018, the final full season before the partnership, the LET hosted 15 tournaments for a total purse of €11.5 million. Five years later, both the purse size and the number of events have grown more than 100 percent, with 31 events and at least €35 million on the line in 2023. At the player meeting, multiple sources explained that LPGA officials stated that the LET is currently self-sufficient.

The LET schedule includes five events under the Aramco Team Series umbrella as well as the Saudi Ladies International tournament, which in February offered a $5 million overall purse. The total amount of money available in purses in these events is $10 million. Funding for them comes from Saudi Arabia’s state-run petroleum company, Saudi Aramco, which renewed its agreement with the LET last November.

It is unknown whether Aramco’s partnership with the LET would continue if an LPGA/LET merger were to take place. Aramco’s chairman is Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is also the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund that controversially backs the LIV Golf League. If the Aramco sponsorship were to remain in place, it could prove a sticking point for LPGA players concerned that the tour would have direct ties with a government that has been accused of numerous human-rights violations, including its treatment of women, dissidents and the gay community.

Marcoux Samaan first discussed the idea of a merger with LPGA members at a player meeting at the Pelican Women’s Championship last November. “For us, we just want to make sure that there are clear pathways for women’s golf, and that the best players in the world can make a living and live their dreams through golf,” she said when asked about a possible merger a week later at the CME Group Tour Championship.

What is unclear is how much farther along officials with either tour might be on a formal proposal for players to review—sources tell Golf Digest that the earliest a merger would be put in place is 2025—or when there might be a vote on the matter from either the LPGA’s board of directors or the LET’s board or its players, which both voted in 2019 to approve the strategic partnership.

“They truly are doing a lot of good behind the scenes that maybe we as players don't see right now,” said LPGA pro Maria Fassi, who attended the meeting. “They have all the data that supports what they're doing. So I'm kind of hopeful with the potential merger, [and] why they want it, [that it is] supported by a lot of data that they've seen that we haven't that will actually help the tour grow and will help players develop better and keep the LPGA the leading professional women's golf tour in the world.”

The lack of specifics and clarity, however, during the meeting was something that upset other players who spoke with Golf Digest. “I just feel like the tour is two steps ahead, but yet [the players] barely trying to understand the blueprint of it,” said Lizette Salas, a 12-year LPGA veteran and five-time U.S. Solheim Cup team member.


Lizette Salas, a 12-year LPGA player and five-time Solheim Cup team member, voiced concerns about a merger with the LET coming before other ways to improve the LPGA Tour had been explored.

Amy Lemus

Salas was one of six players, according to her, who pressed officials with questions on how a merger might benefit the tour versus other avenues the LPGA could focus on for growth. Salas wondered if the tour would be better served identifying how to get more young players into the game or focusing on shoring up LPGA title sponsors. She also expressed concern about the impact a merger could have on the Epson Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. Its tagline is “the Road to the LPGA,” with the top 10 players on its money list earning their way to the LPGA. Would it still be the best way onto the tour in the event of a merger? How many spots would the LET get directly onto the LPGA?

“I think there's things on our plate that need to be addressed, and that need to become stronger as a foundation before we can put our hands in different pots,” said Salas, 33, who described the merger as a "sensitive topic" and was concerned that her and her peers’ questions weren't being answered. She vocalized an emphasis on investing in the LPGA first and foremost, with ideas ranging from attracting more fans to improving player retirement, before potentially merging with the LET.

“I think there's a lot on the line that they don't really [understand]. This move will just determine a whole lot, moving forward with sponsors. I get we want to elevate women's golf, but I think there's a different way to go about it.”