Every women’s sport has a champion. Tennis had Billie Jean King, a tireless advocate for gender equality who wouldn’t rest until men and women were given the same opportunities on and off the court. Soccer has the U.S. Women’s National Team that took on the U.S. Soccer Federation in a fight for equal pay and won, ensuring that men’s and women’s teams would be paid the same amount in the future. And on the LPGA Tour, we have multiple champions in our tournament partners – in companies like CME Group, AIG, Aon and this week’s title sponsor KPMG.
On Tuesday at Congressional Country Club, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship announced that the purse for this year’s event would be doubled, jumping from $4.5 million to $9 million, effective immediately. With the increase, the season’s third major has the second-largest purse on Tour and a winner’s check of $1.35 million, a continuation of this event’s commitment to elevating not just women’s golf, but women in general.
“KPMG’s involvement for the last eight years has been all about the advancement, the development, the empowerment of women. Women in the game of golf and women in the C-suite, in business,” said Laura Newinksi, Deputy Chair and Chief Operating Officer for KPMG. “We’re happy to be adding to that momentum by participating with the PGA of America in this purse announcement. It’s incredibly important not just to this event and in this moment and on this day, but to the momentum. It’s not just about the purse, but it’s about how the women feel.”
The PGA of America acquired the championship in 2014, rebranding the tournament as a sister event to the men’s PGA Championship. Since then, the major has seen a steady uptick in purse size as well as a stacked roster of stellar venues, including Hazeltine National, Aronimink and Congressional Country Club, the 2022 host.
“When this partnership came about, and we had the first KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2014, we really made a commitment,” said Jim Richerson, President of the PGA of America. “We wanted to make sure we utilized this event to showcase the best women’s players in the game and do that with one of the biggest purses.
“We also had the commitment that we wanted to showcase their talents and some of the best venues in the country that typically have hosted men’s major championships. We’re doing that here at Congressional Country Club. Next year they’ll be playing Baltusrol. We’re proud to make sure we’ve honored those two commitments.”
And those kept promises aren’t lost on the players. As the news wound its way through the clubhouse on Tuesday, a palpable excitement could be felt with audible gasps of “oh my gosh” or “how cool is that” bouncing from table to table in player dining. For KPMG Ambassador and United States Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis, the occasion was momentous, but she didn’t quite realize just how huge it would be for her fellow Tour members.
“A couple of girls already said to me how amazing it is, and I did know it was coming,” said Lewis. “I didn’t know it was going to be quite this big. I knew it was going to be big, but not quite this big. It’s amazing. I don’t know how many times you can say it. KPMG from the start, they raised the bar when they came on board for this championship. It pushed the USGA. It pushed the R&A to step up, and they’re doing it again.”
Lewis’ fellow ambassador Mariah Stackhouse shared a similar sentiment, calling the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship one of the top events in the women’s game.
“It’s awesome being a KPMG Ambassador to see us joining that push for increasing and elevating women’s golf, and it’s been done with this championship in terms of the competition ever since KPMG has taken over,” she said. “All the players, we just love being out here, and the way we feel and the way we’re treated this week is fantastic.”
2019 KPMG Women’s PGA champion Hannah Green heartily agrees, admitting that she and her fellow players weren’t shocked to learn that KPMG raised the bar once again in support of women’s golf. “We’re not surprised. KPMG and the PGA of America have been so great in elevating this championship,” said Green. “Three years ago just to see how much money they’ve put into it for us and even just not necessarily the money we play for, but even just how we get treated at the venues that we’re playing.”
While the timing of the announcement may not have been intentional, its coming on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Title IX was serendipitous as it perfectly exemplifies just how far women’s athletics has come since those 37 words were written in 1972. Women belong in all spaces, especially on the court, on the track, on the field and on the course. And for 17-time LPGA Tour winner Lydia Ko, these announcements mean so much more because of their potential implications for generations to come.
“For (tournament partners) to believe in women’s golf and go for that women’s empowerment is very special,” she said. “To be part of that generation of how much the Tour has grown and how much it’s going to continue to grow, it’s really cool to be a part of that. If we can leave the Tour a little better than when we found it, I think that’s the Founders’ spirit that we all try and have on our back while we’re playing.”
On Sunday at Congressional, when the victor hoists the trophy and earns one of the largest winner’s checks in the women’s game, it will serve as another call to action for companies like KPMG and AIG and ProMedica to invest in women. To continue to push the envelope and step up in big ways. To be champions not only for women’s golf but for the future generations to come.
“I don’t think they’re done is my guess. They’ve always had ideas that have been far ahead of everybody else, so I think there’s more coming,” said Lewis. “I think they’re in this for the long haul. We’ve got some great courses announced for the next four or five (years). This championship is in a great spot, and they’ve elevated women’s golf, and they’re going to continue to do it.”