All anyone seems to talk about is money in this disruptive year of golf, and the LPGA Tour should not be left out of the conversation.
Only this is cause for celebration, not division.
The talent pool is as deep as it has been in years. A season that concludes this week at the CME Group Tour Championship already has produced 26 winners in 31 tournaments, 11 of whom won for the first time on the LPGA Tour. Winners came from 14 countries. Americans led the way for the second straight year with eight titles.
But this week is all about money, and for good reason.
The winner from the 60-player field at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, gets $2 million, the richest prize ever in women’s golf.
That’s more than the total prize fund of 15 tournaments on the LPGA Tour schedule, and it’s nearly 10 times as much as the highest base salary in the WNBA.
At least six players are assured of going over $2 million for the year, which is twice as many as the previous record set in 2019 and 2014. Hye-Jin Choi, an LPGA rookie from South Korea, already has topped $2 million without winning a tournament.
The LPGA has never had more than 17 players make more than $1 million in one season, a record established in 2017. This year, at least 24 players will make seven figures.
All the more remarkable is that it comes two years after the LPGA Tour made it through the COVID-19 pandemic — a credit to former Commissioner Mike Whan for building up the reserves — and has come out stronger than ever.
Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan on Friday will announce a 2023 schedule that will push the total prize money to more than $100 million for the first time.
The increase is incremental — the total purse was a record $93.5 million this year for 32 tournaments — and comes mainly from the biggest events.
But it’s a benchmark number.
“And the fact the LPGA has done it all on its own is even more remarkable,” said Dottie Pepper, who retired from the LPGA Tour with 17 wins and two majors and now works as a CBS golf analyst. Her rookie season was 1988, when the total prize fund for the year was just under $10 million. That’s what the U.S. Women’s Open purse was this year.
Pepper still remembers when the Centel Classic began in 1990 as …read more