History was made well before Anna Nordqvist captured the AIG Women’s Open. On Wednesday, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive officer of the R&A, announced that the purse for the final women’s major has been raised to $5.8 million this year, the largest in women’s golf. Also, in partnership with sponsor AIG, at least $1 million more is committed to the purse for 2022, making this event the richest in the women’s game by a healthy sum.
“We are absolutely committed to elevating the AIG Women’s Open and enhancing its status as one of golf’s premier championships,” Slumbers said in a written statement. “With our partners at AIG, we are taking action to make change happen and sending out a strong signal that more needs to be done by everyone involved to grow women’s golf. It needs greater investment and support from golf bodies, sponsors, the media and fans to help us grow the game’s commercial success and generate the income and revenues necessary to make prize fund growth viable and sustainable.
“We have set a new benchmark for prize money in women’s major championship golf this week and, thanks to AIG, will build on it still further next year. We hope this will inspire other events to follow our lead and help us to take a collective leap forward for the women’s game.”
Slumbers wasn’t subtle in throwing down the gauntlet. His statement all but challenged other championships to elevate purses. However, in the moments after the announcement, he struck a different tone.
“There should never be a race,” Slumbers said. “This is not a competition. This is about moving in a direction. And everyone’s got to move at their own pace.
“We’ve been fortunate with the team we’ve got, with the championship we’ve got, to be able to move at the pace that we want to move. I know I’m not the only one who shares this aspiration – and I know that there are a lot of people working very hard to move in this same direction – but it does take a lot of people working together on an event, and great sponsors, as well as great media and getting spectators to come watch, to be able to do (what we’ve done with the purse). And I hope we create a ripple, the same as other ripples have been created in the past. But this is our pace.”
Throughout the week, Peter Zaffino, president and chief executive officer of AIG, aired a similar message. A tape of Zaffino sitting behind a broadcast desk with the links at Carnoustie in the background, aired every day of the championship on Golf Channel/NBC. His message was that the global insurance organization dedicates itself to gender equality and elevating the women’s game.
“We are committed to serving as allies to women in golf, in business and in the communities where we live and work,” Zaffino said in a statement. “Striving for pay equity and highlighting the achievements of successful women are critical components to this commitment and part of AIG’s core values. We are very pleased with today’s announcement as it represents an important step forward in raising the profile of women’s golf and the status of the AIG Women’s Open.”
The 2022 AIG Women’s Open will be played at Muirfield, the first international women’s event hosted by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers which opened its membership to women in 2019.