Emily Pedersen discusses the growth of women’s golf, her hope of seeing prize money parity in the sport in the near future, and the Aramco Team Series.
Emily Pedersen has been one of the shining lights of European golf in recent years and the Dane is optimistic that the future looks bright both for her and the women’s game.
The five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour (LET) is targeting a strong finish to the season – including at next week’s Aramco Team Series New York – and a place in the LPGA’s end-of-season Tour Championship.
But beyond that Pedersen, 26, is passionate about growing women’s golf and equalising prize money for men and women at major tournaments, as is already the case in tennis.
“We want to be at a level with the men but it’s definitely growing and the Aramco Team Series helps. I still think we need more but we have to start somewhere,” she tells City A.M.
“I would definitely like to see the major championships being on the level of the men, I think that would be a great start. So it would be like tennis in the Grand Slams, where the women have the same prize money as the men. I think that would help grow the normal events all over. I would love to see that happen.
“I’ll definitely do my very best to vouch for that. We have seen this year that the major purses are increasing and they’re getting closer, so I do believe that hopefully in the next five years we could get to the point where the major championships are at the same level. That would be a dream.”
Why Pedersen enjoys the Aramco Team Series
For that reason Pedersen is grateful for the addition of the Aramco Team Series to the LET. The string of $1m events joined the European circuit last year, greatly enhancing players’ earning potential and raising the bar for other prospective commercial partners.
“These guys came in and put a lot of money into women’s golf. It has helped to grow the LET and created playing opportunities for a lot of girls,” she adds.
“Ultimately what we want is a place to play. They put up the purses – great – and they give us the possibility to do what we love and make a living. So I think they’ve done great.”
The Solheim Cup star knows better than most what it takes to succeed in the series, which sees players compete for team and individual prizes over a single weekend.
She won the individual and team titles at the Saudi Ladies Team International in late 2020, an event which provided the blueprint for the series when it launched the following year.
Pedersen then captained her team to victory again at the same venue – Royal Greens Golf and Country Club – in the inaugural series finale, the Aramco Team Series Jeddah, 12 months later.
“I always played a lot of team stuff as an amateur, and we only get to do it rarely so when there is a chance to be on a team it kind of awakens a little bit in me,” she says.
“I want to do really well obviously for myself but also for the team. I think that maybe lifts my level up.
“I think it happens on a subconscious level. I’m always trying to do the best I can but I feel like something within me steps it up a little, or maybe if you have a bad patch you pick yourself up more because it’s not just yourself but the other girls in your team as well.
“Obviously the course in Jeddah is quite to my liking so I have great memories and seem to play well around there.
“I’d say that’s probably my favourite but to be fair it is always great courses [on the Aramco Team Series] and they’re always set up to be like a major standard. It suits my golf when the courses have a certain level of difficulty, so I do really like all of the events.”
Pedersen took part when the Aramco Team Series made its New York debut at Glen Oaks Club last year and is due to tee it up again when it returns to the Big Apple, this time on a links-style course at Trump Ferry Point, on 13 October.
She will be joined by a stellar field featuring Evian Championship winner Brooke Henderson, world top-20 ranked Irishwoman Leona Maguire, and LPGA Tour stars Nelly and Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson.
“I feel as though my game is starting to trend in the right direction; I’m just putting the puzzle together at the moment,” says Pedersen, who tied for 20th at last week’s LPGA Tour event in Texas.
“I’m going to try to do as well as I can in the individual [competition] and I know that if I play my best game I do have a chance to win that. Then hopefully I’ll be on a good team and have a chance to win that.
“It’s one step at a time. It’s a super strong field in New York, some of the best players in the world, so I know that I really have to step it up. But I do believe that if I find my good game I have the ability to do that.
“I would really like to be in the top 60 on the LPGA which would get me into the Tour final. And I would love to have a win under my belt again this season. It’s been a couple of years now.
“I’ve definitely been more in contention lately and the start is to be in contention, so I’m hoping to do that over the next few weeks.”
On Linn Grant, Charley Hull and life on two tours
Also driving the conversation about gender pay parity in golf has been Sweden’s Linn Grant, who made history with an emphatic win over a male and female field at the Scandinavian Mixed tournament on the men’s European circuit earlier this year.
“I think she’s very impressive. I played with her a couple of years ago when she was still an amateur and I was impressed then,” she says.
“I thought it was amazing that she won the Scandinavian Mixed to show that we can compete with the men. She’s obviously a great player who has been doing phenomenally well this year, and [fellow sensation] Maja Stark.
“It’s good to see European golf growing and the Swedes really have a good patch of girls coming up as well.”
More recently, Pedersen was delighted to see England’s Charley Hull, her sometime Solheim Cup playing partner, win on the LPGA Tour last weekend.
“She’s a great girl and I love to see European golfers thrive in America,” she says. “I know it had been a while since she’d won on the LPGA Tour so it was great to see her back in the winners’ circle.”
Pedersen herself is enjoying life on the US circuit better second time around, having struggled to realise her potential in an initial three-year stint from 2017 to 2019.
A return to the LET yielded an incredible four titles in 2020 and, now in her second season back on the LPGA Tour, she is gradually feeling more at ease with the switch.
“I still have to find my feet a little bit but I feel like I’m getting there. I do like playing in America – it’s good events – but I want to keep the relationship with the LET.
“I really enjoy the Aramco Team Series. I try to play at least five or six events a year in Europe – I think that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my career.”