Women’s British Open needs sustainable business model to grow purse

A view looking out over the course during a practice session at the 148th British Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland. (AFP pic)

PORTRUSH: The R&A sees a bright future for the Women’s British Open but chief executive Martin Slumbers on Wednesday offered no promises that the championship’s purse would be boosted any time soon to match the men’s Open.

The R&A, the ruling body for golf outside of the United States and Mexico, will take full control of the Women’s Open from next year.

Speaking at a news conference on the eve of the final men’s major of the year at Royal Portrush, Slumbers said that the men’s Open was the organisation’s main revenue earner.

When asked whether he could envisage a time when the two championships would have the same prize money, he spoke about the need for the women’s Open to have a sustainable business model.

“We’re as ambitious for the Women’s British Open as we are for this Open,” Slumbers said. “We’re passionate about growing the women’s game but we need to build a sustainable women’s game (from the amateur level upwards).

“As we’re looking at the Women’s British Open, how (do) we attract more people to watch the championship, to watch it live, watch it on TV?

“To be able to keep raising the prize money we need to do it as a sustainable business model. How do we build a better model to have a more financially successful Women’s British Open that will flow then down into the prize money? Where it ends up, I don’t know.”

Slumbers highlighted the fact that the purse for the Women’s Open has been increased by 40% over the last year.

This year’s Women’s Open, to be played at Woburn in Milton Keynes, England, from Aug. 1-4, will have prize money of US$4.5 million, while this week’s men’s championship will hand out US$10.75 million.

By comparison, the purse at this year’s men’s US Open was US$12.5 million, while at the US Women’s Open it was US$5.5 million, the largest ever for a women’s tournament.

Also, the PGA Championship paid out US$11 million, while the Women’s PGA Championship purse was US$3.85 million.

The Women’s British Open was founded by the Ladies Golf Union in 1976.

Slumbers acknowledged that the men’s Open was the organisation’s biggest revenue generator.

“A lot of my responsibility is to balance out the revenues and expenses of our championships with our desire to invest £200 million into the game in this decade,” Slumbers said.

“This is our biggest event. And we need to keep growing it to keep it one of the greatest sporting events, with half an eye on how do we improve the difference in pay between the Open and the Women’s British Open?”