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Monday, July 15, 2024

Women’s PGA Championship Tees Off With a Big Investment, Record Purse

  • The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has a major upgrade this year.
  • There is also a purse increase to a record $10.4 million.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The third women’s golf major championship of the year is underway, with significant new financial investment in LPGA players and fans, as the trend of spending more money on women’s sports in general continues.

This year’s purse at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which teed off Thursday morning at Sahalee Country Club just outside Seattle, is increasing 4% to a record $10.4 million. But an even bigger boost is coming through the addition of a novel, expensive service that had been almost exclusively reserved for men’s golf. 

The Women’s PGA Championship will feature ShotLink technology for the first time, something that is primarily used at men’s majors and more than 90 PGA Tour–operated events each year. For those unfamiliar, imagine if the Hawk-Eye replay system at Wimbledon was only used for men’s and not women’s tennis (this is not apples to apples but the same idea).

Last year, the U.S. Women’s Open became the first women’s event to use the service at Pebble Beach Golf Links (and did so again at last month’s major). Players benefit from the quick stats immediately after rounds, and fans are aided during the golf as they can track the information from hole to hole.

On the LPGA Tour, the KPMG Performance Insights program provides some similar golf shot data for players. But unlike men’s events, where dozens of cameras and radars automatically record stats, LPGA caddies often record things manually, like how far a drive went or how long a putt is throughout the round, which is then compiled afterward.

Equal Spending

The PGA Tour spends millions of dollars annually on operating ShotLink at tournaments, so putting the technology in requires major monetary commitments. But now, brands are allocating more dollars to women’s sports than ever before. KPMG has been the title sponsor of the Women’s PGA Championship since 2014, and this year the PGA of America signed up another new sponsor, T-Mobile, to help fund the ShotLink implementation.

“We have an opportunity to take women’s major championship golf to the same level as the men,” Jeff Price, the PGA of America’s chief commercial officer, tells Front Office Sports. In addition to this week’s move, the PGA of America will be hosting several future men’s and women’s championships at a new flagship course in Frisco, Texas, which should facilitate further equalization of the games.

LPGA Eyes Investment

As women’s golf majors continue to lead the way, the LPGA has its eye on key upgrades like ShotLink and others for week-to-week events. “There’s conversations with these partners about this stuff all the time,” Matt Chmura, the tour’s top marketing executive, tells FOS. “We’re pushing harder and harder to expand that to other tournaments and eventually to get it throughout the whole field.”

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