Hot on the heels of the men’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open seeing its purse go up by £2.1m to £5.6m as a result of it being included in the European Tour’s new Rolex Series, the women’s equivalent has now been handed a similar shot in the arm.
Its prize fund is being tripled from £428,000 to £1.2m through a ground-breaking co-sanctioning agreement between the Ladies European Tour and the US-based LPGA, making it the event carrying the highest prize fund on the LET outside the majors.
In another exciting development for a tournament that has been played in the shadow of the men’s event in the past, it will change from a pro-am format over 54 holes to a 72-hole stroke-play competition with a full field of 156 players.
On top of that, both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens will be held at the same venue – Dundonald Links in Ayrshire – next year for the first time. The women’s event takes place from 27-30 July – three weeks after the men’s tournament pays its first visit to the Kyle Phillips-designed layout.
The women’s event is a week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns, which should guarantee a star-studded field at Dundonald, where Lydia Ko, the world No 1 at the time, played in the event last year in preparation for the LGU’s major at Turnberry.
An initial three-year deal has been struck for the AAM Ladies Scottish Open by the LET and the LPGA in partnership with the title sponsor and VisitScotland, underlining Scotland’s commitment to growing women’s golf as it looks towards hosting the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
“This is huge stepping stone for the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open to rank alongside the biggest tournaments across both tours,” said AAM chief executive Martin Gilbert. “It has been our vision to grow the event to a point where it becomes a staple on the world’s best players’ calendars whilst continuing to expose the Aberdeen brand in key markets.
“This deal, with live TV on both the Golf Channel and Sky Sports, will continue to do that and we would like to thank all of those that have come together to make it happen.”
The agreement was hailed by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and his LET counterpart, Ivan Khodabakhsh. “Given Scotland’s rich history in golf, I am excited that the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open will provide an opportunity for the best players in the world to spend two consecutive weeks in Scotland,” said Whan.
“This tournament will be a great lead-in to the Ricoh Women’s British Open, and give our global fans a great two-week viewing experience from the UK.”
Ivan Khodabakhsh added: “With world-class women’s golf from across the continents, the event will generate huge interest, beyond the borders of the golf community, which will help to set the perfect stage for the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.”
The Ladies Scottish Open moved to a summer slot last year as organisers attempted to replicate the position with the men’s event preceding a major, in its case, of course, the Open Championship.
Five of the last six Claret Jug winners warmed up in the AAM Scottish Open, with the top four at Castle Stuart this year - Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, JB Holmes and Steve Stricker - all having competed at Castle Stuart.
“The huge success of the men’s Scottish Open taking place the week before The Open provided the inspiration for us to achieve similar success with the Ladies Scottish Open ahead of the Ricoh Women’s British Open and these outstanding two weeks will now rival anything the world of golf has to offer,” said Paul Bush, director of events with VisitScotland.
“This historic agreement underlines Scotland’s commitments to women’s golf as we look forward to the 2019 Solheim Cup, and I would like to pay tribute to both the LET and the LPGA, alongside our partners at Aberdeen Asset Management, for the vision to make this a reality.”