2021 accelerated an uptrend in professional purses.
November 2, 2021 by Charlie Eisenhood in Analysis, News with 0 comments
Disc golf’s explosive growth over the last 18 months has led to a lot of changes. Tournaments filling in minutes. Record-setting viewership. Disc shortages. And fatter paydays for professional players.
It’s already well-established that 2021 has offered record prize money to the game’s best, but it’s worth looking closer at just how quickly and dramatically tournament purses are growing. The Disc Golf Pro Tour’s announcement of a $250,000 purse–with sponsorship from Guaranteed Rate, LL Bean, and Johnsonville–for the Tour Championship was the latest eye-popping number, but it’s part of a broad uptrend in prize money.
Here’s a look at Elite Series tournament purses over the last four years (excluding Majors and the Tour Championship), with the averages from the National Tour and Disc Golf Pro Tour plotted as lines (rollover to interact and click in the key to toggle off/on events):
Elite Series Tournament Purses since 2018
Especially if you toggle off the outlier that is the Ledgestone Insurance Open, you can see how much payouts ballooned in 2021, particularly in the latter half of the season. Four DGPT tournaments — The Preserve, Idlewild Open, Ledgestone, and MVP Open — eclipsed $70,000 in total payout this year. Only Ledgestone had reached that mark in past seasons. Things get even more impressive if you include Worlds ($173,105) and the DGPT Championship ($250,000), the two biggest purses in disc golf history.
Average DGPT payouts were 58% higher in 2021 than they were in 2018; National Tour payouts were up 61%.
Of course, the majority of the increase is coming from more added cash; tournaments have only grown modestly in participation, if at all. Here’s a look at the added cash for 2021’s Elite Series events and Majors (rollover to interact):
2021 Added Cash at Disc Golf Elite Series Events and Majors
Take a look all the way on the left-hand side of that chart. That bar represents the average added cash at tournaments in 2020. Every single Elite Series event in 2021 has more added cash than the average in 2020. Only last year’s Ledgestone and USDGC even surpassed a single 2021 event in the money they put into the pot.
Another way to measure how much money is going into an event is to normalize it by the number of players — really big events might have the ability to add more cash since they tend to have overall bigger budgets and potentially more marketing power. So let’s look at the added cash per player at 2021 ES events and Majors (rollover to interact):
2021 Added Cash Per Player at Disc Golf Elite Series Events and Majors
Unsurprisingly, this chart mostly maps to the one from above, but it’s worth pointing out that the US Women’s Disc Golf Championship moved into second place despite being just below the 2021 average in total added cash. When your very respectable $31,800 of added cash is showered on a field of just 62, that yields hearty prizes all the way to the cash line.
The three top events in per capita added cash were all limited fields. The World Championships — the season’s largest pro event with 279 participants — stand out for both playing host to a lot of players and offering one of the highest per-person added cash amounts this year.
What will 2022 bring? With the National Tour folding into the Disc Golf Pro Tour (whose tournaments had an average payout 23% higher than the NTs this year) and the two tournaments with the lowest payouts from 2021 (Delaware Disc Golf Challenge and Masters Cup) not returning to the Elite Series, it seems like a safe bet that average payouts will increase yet again, even in the absence of substantial added cash increases.
Additionally, the DGPT’s commitment to adding spectator ticket sales revenue into the purse for the foreseeable future means that purses will likely continue to climb, as many of the early 2021 tournaments were still restricted to limited or no spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As ticket sales opened up later in the year, the added cash climbed alongside attendance.
The continued growth of the sport, the Pro Tour’s involvement with the operations of the PDGA Majors, and, as a result, favorable advertising tailwinds should also drive further growth in payouts.
Of course, it is no coincidence that players in both MPO (Paul McBeth — $88,903) and FPO (Missy Gannon – $67,029) set single-season prize earning records in 2021. Gannon claimed a $30,000 prize for winning the DGPT Championship in October, and McBeth claimed $20,000 for winning USDGC and another $10,000 for his third place finish at the DGPT Championship.
Could 2022 be the year that a player first eclipses $100,000 in tournament winnings?