CHARLESTON, S.C. – The USGA has announced a $500,000 increase to both the 119th U.S. Open and 74th U.S. Women’s Open purses for 2019. The news comes two days before the start of the women’s championship at Country Club of Charleston.
The winner of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open will receive a $1 million prize, the largest winner’s check in women’s major championship history. The bump raises the men’s U.S. Open purse to $12.5 million at Pebble Beach and $5.5 million for the women – the largest purses in all of major championship golf.
“I think a million is going to get everybody’s attention,” said two-time major winner Stacy Lewis. “Just taking it to the million mark is amazing really, for them to step up and do that, it’s a great thing.”
Purses for the five women’s majors vary greatly
- ANA Inspiration: $3 million
- KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: $3,850,000
- Evian Championship: $4,100,000
- AIG Women’s British Open: $3,250,000
The U.S. Women’s Open purse is 25 percent higher than the next-closest women’s major. But the highest-winner’s check on the LPGA actually belongs to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which will present a $1.5 million check at this year’s event in Naples, Fla. The purse doubled to $5 million for 2019.
It’s one thing to compare the USWO to all the other women’s majors and it’s another to compare it to the what the men will play for next month at Pebble Beach. There isn’t a player on the LPGA who wouldn’t like to see equal purses between the men’s and women’s championships one day, but most also understand that the U.S. Open is the only profitable event on the USGA’s championship schedule. Even the U.S. Women’s Open loses money.
“I don’t know what you would call fair,” said Lewis. “If you could go off of what each tournament makes, we probably get paid more than what we should. I would just like it to be closer.”
Lewis hopes the USGA’s bump in pay causes organizers of other women’s majors to step up.
Marina Alex called the increase “amazing” and noted that the last time LPGA players competed for a $1 million first-place prize was the ADT Championship, which hasn’t been around in over a decade.
It’s not just the winner who makes out well this week. Last year’s second-place prize of $540,000 at the Women’s Open was higher than the winner’s check at all but three LPGA events (including the USWO).
A strong finish at the U.S. Women’s Open can literally be life-changing for some players. Aussie Sarah Jane Smith led last year’s championship early on at Shoal Creek and ultimately took a share of fifth. That $182,487 paycheck caused husband Duane, who also caddies, to ask “Want to have a baby?” as they were rushing to the airport.
“I was keeping my card on the LPGA, but I was only getting by,” Smith said earlier this year. “Not in a position to start a family. That was a main goal – to be stable enough to start a family. To buy a house and a car and health insurance.”
The Smiths are due to welcome their first child in July.
Even those who had an off-week might come out ahead.
Players who missed the cut last year at Shoal Creek received $4,000. Amateurs in the field receive reimbursement for travel expenses.
“The USGA is committed to providing an unparalleled experience to every player competing in its championships,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director, championships. “Through strategic investments in our player relations program, we are continuing the effort to create a competitor experience commensurate with the game’s most prestigious championships, and that includes an increased purse and a continued commitment to make playing in an Open championship unforgettable for the world’s top amateur players.”