Payday at Pebble
USGA bumps U.S. Women’s Open prize money payout to record $11M with eventual goal of equal purse to men
Kevin C. Cox
PEBBLE BEACH — The USGA announced Wednesday that the 2023 U.S. Women's Open purse is going up to $11 million, a $1 million raise from 2022. It's now double the size of the purse of the 2021 championship and the largest prize money payout in women’s golf.
"Talking about 12 hours of network TV and playing for $11 million, some things are better than what you dream of," said USGA CEO Mike Whan. "When you go back 10 or 15 years ago, those are pretty big moments, and I hope that all of us aren't both so callused and in a hurry and iPhone-driven that we've missed that kind of breakthrough moment."
This week's winner at Pebble Beach will earn $2 million, up from the $1.8 million prize money payout Minjee Lee claimed a year ago at Pine Needles.
This increase comes without the USGA bringing on a replacement presenting sponsor for 2023. The addition of ProMedica as the first-ever presenting sponsor of a USGA championship helped boost the Women’s Open purse from $5.5 million to $10 million, but due to economic concerns, the USGA released the company from the 10-year agreement after only one year. Whan shared that despite currently not having a presenting sponsor, the goal is to continue to increase the purse. He named $12 million as a target while discussing the next steps for the prize money.
The opportunity to pay out more money in the future is from the confidence that a new presenting sponsor will be signed shortly after this week, Whan all but saying that a deal is close to being in place.
"When we parted ways with ProMedica, we decided to kind of sit tight for a year because we didn't want to be in the midst of this running around and changing signage and that kind of stuff," Whan said. "And so we sort of said to ourselves, let's wait a year. … In that wait we actually had four or five partners kind of reach out to us, so we've been pretty deep in the dialogue with a couple of them."
The increased purse continues the march towards getting the men’s and women’s Opens to the same prize money, something the U.S. Open in tennis accomplished in 1973. While Whan mentioned ideally that would've happened 20 years ago, the world of golf changed rapidly over the last two years. The closest the two championships came to equal money in recent years came when the $10 million purse for the 2022 U.S. Women's Open was announced that January, sitting only $1.5 million behind the men's $12.5 million in 2021.
However, the men's purse has increased by $7.5 million over the last two years, with $20 million handed out at Los Angeles Country Club two weeks ago as cash continues funneling into the men's game with LIV and the PGA Tour warring over money before the recent merger agreement.
Despite the increasing purse gap, due to factors out of the USGA's control, the governing body aims to accomplish the goal of equal prize money by focusing on factors beyond just the cash available at the championship. There is no firm internal deadline to get to the same purse between the two U.S. Opens.
"Equality takes on a lot of different meanings to us, not just the purse," USGA president Fred Perpall said. "But I think if we keep working on that process, eventually we get more eyeballs. We get more interest. We have the economics rise. And then it's easier for the purse to rise, too. Some of this is part of the process, and some of it is part of the journey and not only the destination. I think we're focused much more on the process to get to that level of equality."