Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Fun with the Career Money List: Tracking 5 LPGA Generations

Way back when, I predicted that Lorena Ochoa would beat Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak to the $10M mark in career earnings, and lo and behold, it just happened. What I want to do this time around, though, is make more reasonable comparisons, for even though Ochoa is only 4 years younger than Pak, she joined the LPGA Tour 5 years after her, which is something like two generations in golf years, when you take into account not only inflation generally, but also the inflation of purses in the Sorenstam era (from roughly $20M in 1994 to roughly $60M in 2008).

To see how dominant Pak has been in her ten years on the LPGA, let's compare her to the top players who joined the Tour within a year of her, the Pak generation.

Se Ri Pak (1998) $9.79M (#5)
Mi Hyun Kim (1999) $7.86M (#10)
Cristie Kerr (1997) $7.83M (#11)
Rachel Hetherington (1997) $5.40M (#21)
Laura Diaz (1999) $4.10M (#29)
Sophie Gustafson (1998) $3.90M (#34)
Maria Hjorth (1998) $3.74M (#36)
Kelli Kuehne (1998) $2.12M (#76)

That's money won during the prime years of the amazing classes of 1994-1996, the Sorenstam generation:

Annika Sorenstam (1994) $20.84M (#1)
Karrie Webb (1996) $13.46M (#2)
Lorie Kane (1996) $6.64M (#14)
Pat Hurst (1995) $5.91M (#15)
Catriona Matthew (1995) $5.06M (#24)
Carin Koch (1995) $4.05M (#31)
Wendy Ward (1996) $3.93M (#33)

Now let's take a look at some standouts from the classes of 2000 to 2002, who are much more closely bunched, and so go unnamed for now:

Grace Park (2000) $5.23M (#23)
Jeong Jang (2000) $5.03M (#25)
Hee-Won Han (2001) $4.82M (#27)
Natalie Gulbis (2002) $3.38M (#42)
Gloria Park (2000) $3.11M (#49)
Candie Kung (2002) $3.07M (#50)
Angela Stanford (2001) $2.69M (#59)
Dorothy Delasin (2000) $2.53M (#62)
Jennifer Rosales (2000) $2.20M (#74)
Sarah Lee (2002) $1.76M (#94)

Now we're in a position to better appreciate Ochoa's dominance over what has to be called the Ochoa generation, the top players from the classes of 2003-2005:

Lorena Ochoa (2003) $10.43M (#4)
Paula Creamer (2005) $3.99M (#32)
Suzann Pettersen (2003) $2.76M (#55)
Christina Kim (2003) $2.46M (#66)
Stacy Prammanasudh (2003) $2.27M (#73)
Shi Hyun Ahn (2004) $1.94M (#84)
Brittany Lincicome (2005) $1.85M (#89)
Meena Lee (2005) $1.81M (#91)
Young Kim (2003) $1.79M (#92)

By contrast, the Super Soph generation is closely bunched, which suggests that the classes of 2007 and 2008 have their work cut out for them:

Julieta Granada (2006) $2.05M (#78)
Seon Hwa Lee (2006) $2.02M (#79)
Jee Young Lee (2006) $1.54M (#102)
Morgan Pressel (2006) $1.44M (#112)
Ai Miyazato (2006) $1.32M (#119)
Angela Park (2007) $.98M (#159)
Brittany Lang (2006) $.89M (#179)
Kyeong Bae (2006) $.60M (#226)
Meaghan Francella (2006) $.51M (#238)
In-Kyung Kim (2007) $.45M (#253)
Inbee Park (2007) $.38M (#266)

So there you have it: the 5 most recent generations of LPGA stars, the names of whom alone show how globalized the U.S. tour has been for the past 15 years or so. Within individual classes, you often see individual standouts like Sorenstam, Webb, Kerr, Pak, MH Kim, Han, Ochoa, Ahn, and Creamer, but fairly often you get close races, like between Hurst and Matthew in 1995 or Park and Jang in 2000 or Gulbis and Kung in 2002 or Granada and SH Lee in 2006. This chart also allows you to compare adjoining years across the generations, as well, for instance to show that Creamer is the only member of the class of 2005 still ahead of the top Super Sophs, that MH Kim of the class of 1999 is far ahead of both Park and Jang of the class of 2000, and that only Webb from the class of 1996 is ahead of Kerr of the class of 1997. It also raises interesting questions, like whether MH Kim or Kerr will be runner-up to Pak, whether Pettersen, C Kim, or Prammanasudh will be runner-up to Ochoa in the class of 2003, and whether Lincicome or M Lee will be runner-up to Creamer in the class of 2005. Of course, given the longevity of players like Juli Inkster and Laura Davies, the time it will take to tell may well be measured in decades!


The Constructivist said...

Just Waggle Roomed this.

spyder said...

So not counting the deflation of the dollar over the last 1.5 years (project to 2008 dollars, that would be an approximate 16% loss), the total purse of $20.0 million in 1994 translates to the 2006 equivalence (in millions of dollars):
$27.21 using the Consumer Price Index
$25.83 using the GDP deflator
$28.79 using the unskilled wage
$32.79 using the nominal GDP per capita
$37.31 using the relative share of GDP

Taking the nominal GDP (because unlike CPI it included food and energy costs), $20 million in 1994 would probably be $35+ million in 2008. I would think we shall see more and more LPGA players and events move their game outside the US in efforts to stop losing money in relation to the downward floating dollar. Thus, your total purses (in dollar equivalents) would grow faster than they have been.

In reality then, the purses of the Ochoa generation are valued less than those of the Sorenstam one, if shown dollar for dollar. The players today are losing money playing for US dollars, when they could be seeking Yen, Yuan, Euros, K's, R's, etc. A whole new meaning to the globalization of the LPGA, eh??

The Constructivist said...

Hmm, so maybe globalization will lead to an influx of Americans on the KLPGA, JLPGA, and LET?

Hey, you should check out the comments at Waggle Room on this piece--lots on the mysteries of endorsement money and total career income of these folks (and M------- W--).