World No.2 Minjee Lee and six other Australians will be playing for a US$1 million winner's cheque at this week's US 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 record total purse of US$5.5 million – up US$500,000 from last year.
That is less than half the record US$12.5 million on offer at the men's US Open at Pebble Beach in two weeks' time, though the US$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 No.8 Lexi Thompson said the purse announcement had been greeted positively by the players.
"The difference in purses is the difference in total viewership.” – LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan
"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 US$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.
Minjee Lee, a winner at the recent LA Open, heads the Australian cast in the field, joined by legend Karrie Webb, Katherine Kirk, Hannah Green, Sarah Kemp, Su Oh and amateur Gabriela Ruffels.
- Andrew Both, Reuters