The LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour merger was blocked late last year
The GIST: A massive merger between the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET) that was initially announced in 2019 was reportedly blocked late last year after Golf Saudi — one of LET’s largest financial backers through Saudi state oil company Aramco — intervened. Drama.
The details: The merger would have introduced seven co-sanctioned events worth a combined $11M while both tours operated independently. The sides were set to formally vote last November, but the LET mysteriously postponed the meeting, citing the need to review “additional information.” This month, LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan told players why: Golf Saudi.
- In 2021, Aramco agreed to become one of the LET’s biggest financial backers, a boon for an organization struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Aramco-sponsored events comprise $10M of the LET’s $43M season prize pot. Whole lotta green.
- Because of this, Golf Saudi wanted to fully analyze how an LPGA–LET merger would affect its existing events — the Aramco Saudi Ladies International and Aramco Team Series — before committing to the 2024 calendar, per Marcoux Samaan.
The context: Golf Saudi is operated by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which also funds LIV Golf. The PIF is utilizing its LET access to gain a women’s golf foothold, but an LPGA merger could potentially threaten its influence — especially since other U.S. women’s sports leagues have been reluctant to allow Saudi investment. This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.
The future: If nothing else, the move sends a message — even without an established league of its own, Golf Saudi has the power to influence women’s golf. Whether Saudi Arabia eventually builds its own women’s tour or continues bankrolling the LET, it’s clear that leaders want a seat at the table for global golf deals.