By Andrew Both
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Female golfers will play for a $1 million (790,451 pounds) first prize at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open, a first even if prize money continues to lag well behind the riches on offer in the men’s game.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced the amount at the Country Club of Charleston on Tuesday, revealing a total purse of $5.5 million, up $500,000 from last year.
That is less than half the record $12.5 million on offer at the men’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in two weeks’ time, though the $500,000 increase from last year is the same for both sexes.
“We looked at it from the overall championship experience and just felt that those were the amounts that would be meaningful and would be impactful,” USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer told reporters.
American world number eight Lexi Thompson said the purse announcement had been greeted positively by the players.
“I can definitely say I think the players are very excited about the news, and hopefully we can just keep on improving,” Thompson said.
“I think it’s amazing news. And I think it strikes us as the women’s game is growing so much. I think it’s very well-deserved.”
Total prize money on the LPGA Tour this year will amount to about $70 million, about a fifth of what the men play for.
Commissioner Mike Whan said it was unrealistic to expect parity.
“The difference in purses is the difference in total viewership,” he said in an interview with Reuters in January, referring to television ratings.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Ken Ferris)