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  • Alistair Tait

Another Step Towards Golf Equality

As Rancho Mirage (above) prepares to fade into the background as a major championship venue, women’s golf takes yet another step towards equality with the men’s game.

Who’d have thought not too long ago all five women’s major championships would each be worth over $4.5 million. News that the ANA Inspiration is to become the $5 million Chevron Championship from next year in a six-year deal is welcome news on top of the AIG Women’s Open growing to $6.8 million from 2022.

The $5 million prize fund for the Chevron Championship, which will move to Houston in 2023, is a 60% increase on this year’s $3.1 million ANA purse. Not bad at a time when some purses in men’s golf have been radically slashed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tournament will also be held at a later Spring date, which means increased TV coverage.

“This partnership will be a game-changer for the LPGA in so many ways,” LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said. “It will allow us to elevate this major championship to new heights.”

With the U.S. Women’s Open worth $5.5 million and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Amundi Evian Championship on purses of $4.5 million, it means the top women now play for combined major championship total prize money of $26.3 million. It’s still a far cry from the $47.5 million the men compete for in the only tournaments that really matter, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

That a huge international company like Chevron has made a long-term commitment to women’s golf, and a major TV network like NBC will air the tournament for all four days going forward, speaks volumes for where the women’s game is headed.

Many will be saddened that a major championship venue like Rancho Mirage is to disappear from the LPGA schedule given the history the course has with a tournament which has provided many thrills over the years, a course synonymous with the one of the biggest supporters of the women’s game in Dinah Shore. However, the huge new investment in the tournament surely mitigates that loss?

As former colleague Beth Ann Nichols, who broke the Chevron story, writes:

“It’s not just about the money. The move to a later date in the spring guarantees network television coverage, which should be at the top of the priority list for all big events on the LPGA’s calendar. Does tradition really matter if not enough people see it?
“It’s important to remember that the LPGA is only as good as its majors.
“Hopefully it’s the kind of blue-chip sponsor that makes other Fortune 500 companies look to the LPGA as a potential partner.”

There’s the rub. If a big player like Chevron can see the value of investing in women’s golf, then surely other major companies have to see the value too? That can only be good for the growth of the women’s golf, which still lags too far behind the men’s game for this writer’s liking.

Who knows, maybe that hitherto unlikely dream of the women’s majors achieving equal prize money with the men’s blue chip tournaments isn’t as far away as we think. Hey, maybe even those golf club members who identify themselves by wearing the gaudiest green jackets in golf will one day decide to hold a Women’s Masters.

Okay, maybe I got carried away there, but we can but dream...

#JustSaying: “I remember thinking at the time I might be in the job a year, and we’ll be down to one major.” Former LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan

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