Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports
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Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports

Edited by Eva Marikova Leeds and Michael A. Leeds

Women’s sports have received much less attention from economists than from other social scientists. This Handbook fills that gap with a comprehensive economic analysis of women’s sports. It also analyzes how the behavior and treatment of female athletes reflect broad economic forces.
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Chapter 4: Gender and skill convergence in professional golf

Stephen Shmanske


In golf, brute strength is not as important as it is in many other sports. Consequently, all else equal, women might be expected to compete effectively with men. However, with very few exceptions (for example, Babe Zaharias, Annika Sorenstam, and Michelle Wie) women have competed separately in women-only events. It is possible that separate competitions are an artifact of antique social mores that are slowly changing. As women, and society in general, become accustomed to the idea of women competing directly with men, women will be more willing to practice to develop the level of skills to compete in gender-neutral tournaments at the highest level. Many golf fans, including this author, eagerly await this day. However, Shmanske (2000, 2012) has shown that, at their current skill levels, women can earn more money by competing in women-only tournaments sponsored by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) than they can by competing in the tournaments on the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour (PGA TOUR), which are open to both genders. Competitive professional golf in the United States is organized into annual ‘Tours’, in which the golf associations schedule tournaments. The associations determine which golfers are eligible to compete, and they negotiate with the golf courses and corporate sponsors for the right to stage the event. The PGA TOUR and its forerunner, the Tournament Players Division of the PGA of America, have organized the Tour since the 1930s, before which a less formal structure of the Tour was in place.

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