ESPN U.S. Golf Tournament Stock Women's Open soars to $10 million on legendary espnW courses on ESPN Deportes
Long considered the biggest event in women's golf, the U.S. Women's Open now has prize money and future venues to match.
The USGA announced Friday that the purse will nearly double this year to $10 million, by far the richest in women's golf and challenging to the highest prizes in women's sports.
The purse was $5.5 million when Yuka Saso won at the Olympic Club last year.
Helping to make it possible was the fact the USGA added a presenting sponsor -- Ohio-based ProMedica, a nonprofit health organization serving 28 states.
Backed by ProMedica, the U.S. The Women's Open is projected to grow to $11 million and eventually $12 million over the next five years.
"This is a huge step for women's sports around the world. Our players work very hard to be competitive, to travel the tour," said Juli Inkster, five-time USGA champion. "Sometimes you feel like you do it and you don't get rewarded for how hard you work. ProMedica is giving these ladies a chance to play for big money. ... This will make or break their year. In their life ".
Along with the huge jump in money, the USGA is sending women some of the classic designs of the U.S. Open that for decades have hosted the men's event. That list includes a return to Oakmont and Pinehurst's No. 2 course, plus the Riviera, Oakland Hills, Merion, Inverness and Interlachen.
The USGA said Pinehurst in North Carolina would host the men's and women's Open in consecutive weeks in 2029, as it did in a successful debut in 2014. Martin Kaymer won that U.S. Open. Open, and Michelle Wie captures her first major at the U.S. Women's Open the following week.
This is the first major initiative by the USGA since Mike Whan, the former commissioner of the LPGA Tour, took over as executive director last summer.
"The USGA prides itself on running championships that not only provide an incredible stage for the athletes but also give younger players something to dream about," said Whan. "For more than 75 years, the U.S. Women's Open has been the one every little girl, in every country around the world, has dreamed of winning."
He said the collaboration with ProMedica helps make that happen. The health group will be a marketing partner of the USGA, and its ProMedica Impact Fund will be the official charity of the Women's Open. The fund is committed to raising more than $1 billion over eight years for programs focused on improving individual and community health.
"We will strive to change the sport and what it means to young women around the world to raise the bar every year," said Whan.
The Women's Open is scheduled for June 2-5 at Pine Needles Lodge in North Carolina, then moves to Pebble Beach in California for the first time of the year. Pebble Beach was already on the calendar.
Pine Needles has a short but strong Women's Open history, with a list of champions that includes Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr.
The future program includes historic courses, such as the Riviera and Merion, which have been home to the U.S. Open through the years.
"Imagine having a young girl who dreams of a career in the sport of golf, and you can tell that girl that your dream must now include names like Erin Hills, Inverness, Oakmont, Merion, Interlachen," said Whan . "That's revolutionary, the places where we play."
Most prominent on the list was Oakland Hills. The Detroit-area course recently enjoyed a major renovation under Gil Hanse, whose architectural firm was chosen to design the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Oakland Hills had long tried to receive a U.S. Open for the seventh time. It is well known that this is where Ben Hogan "brought this field, this monster" to its knees when he won the Open in 1951, but has not hosted the men's Open since 1996.
Hogan also won in 1948 at the Riviera in Los Angeles, now the site of the Genesis Invitational on the PGA Tour. It remains one of the most legendary stops on the West Coast, but it was judged as not having enough space for all the infrastructure required for a men's major tournament.
Inverness in Toledo, Ohio, most recently hosted the Solheim Cup. The Women's Open is also returning to Interlachen outside Minneapolis for the first time since Inbee Park won its first Women's Open in 2008. That will be held in 2030, the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones winning the U.S. Open during his "impregnable quadrangle" sweep of the four biggest golf tournaments of his day.
It was not immediately clear how much the winner would receive in the U.S. Women's Open. Saso received a little more than the typical 18% of the purse, as the USGA wanted to provide the largest prize at $1 million.
Information from ESPN's Charlotte Gibson and the Associated Press was used in this report.