Some retailers might be happy to sell you a woman’s purse (or a “man bag” for male golfers) -- perhaps with special compartments for tees or ball markers -- and call it a “golf purse.” But the term actually refers to the pool of prize money available to golfers in a professional tournament. In North America, you’ll find the largest available purses on the PGA Tour.
Source of the Purse Money
Most of the purse money comes from the various television networks that broadcast PGA Tour events. As of 2012, television rights money provides 60 percent of each tournament’s purse, according to an article in Forbes. The remaining 40 percent of the prize money is provided by the tournament’s sponsors, who range from golf courses to large corporations and include a variety of organizations. The sponsors typically take in revenue from sources such as advertising, ticket sales, parking and concessions, from which they hope to pay their share of the purse, with something left over as profit.
The Forbes article noted that PGA Tour purses have grown “exponentially” since 1970. According to the magazine, in 1970 the tour paid $5.5 million in prize money for 55 events. Many single tournaments as of 2012 have much greater purses. According to the 2012 PGA Tour schedule, 36 events have purses of $5.5 million or more. In 1980 the combined PGA purse for 44 events totaled $46.3 million. By 2000 the total had risen to $164.4 million for 49 events. The 2011 numbers were $275.5 million for 45 events.
Winners of PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour events receive 18 percent of the purse. Each successive place down the line receives a smaller piece of the pie. Typically, each golfer who makes the cut earns some prize money. On the Champions Tour (sometimes still known by its former name, the Senior Tour) and the LPGA Tour, the victor receives 15 percent of the purse. The European Tour reserves 16.67 percent of the purse for the winner.
As of 2012, no regular tournament on the PGA Tour offers a purse of less than $1 million. The lowest-paying event on the official PGA Tour calendar is the ADT Skills Challenge, with a total purse of $800,000. The richest tournament is owned by the players themselves: The event called The Players Championship in 2012 will offer a $9.5 million purse, with a $1.71 million first prize. Each of the four major tournaments -- the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship -- offer purses of $8 million, with $1.44 million going to the winner.