Hunter Mahan walked away from a potential million-dollar prize at the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open Saturday, when he withdrew from the tournament he was leading to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s first child. Mahan held a two-shot lead going into the Saturday’s third round and was preparing to tee off when his wife went into labor. He promptly withdrew from the tournament and boarded a plane to Texas to be with her.
Mahan isn’t the first athlete to miss time to witness the birth of a child. Boston Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia, for instance, left a game early to witness the birth of his second child in 2012. But unlike pros in other sports, Mahan’s pay is determined by where he finishes on the leaderboard each week. Even if baseball players were paid by the game and the Red Sox didn’t pay Pedroia for the time he missed, his $8 million salary means he’d have been walking away from less than $50,000 per game. The Canadian Open winner will cash a check for more than $1 million, though, so Mahan gave up a potential prize equal to roughly half what he’s made on the course so far this year, and he won’t get paid anything by withdrawing. That’s quite a sacrifice.
The choice Mahan made, though, isn’t available to many American families who make far less money than he does, since the United States is one of three industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee paid leave from work for new mothers and among the few that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for new fathers, either. In fact, only 11 percent of private sector workers have access to paid maternity leave, and paid paternity leave is even more rare. Mahan deserves a ton of credit for choosing his family over golf. It’d be nice if we made it easier for workers who haven’t made more than $2.3 million this year to make the same choice too, especially since studies show that such policies are good for families, businesses, and the overall economy.