Martin Slumbers: Women's golf 'really exploded' on back of R&A's Muirfield stance

This week’s AIG Women’s Open in East Lothian will carry a $7.3 million prize fund on the back of women’s golf having “really exploded” since Muirfield was used as a catalyst by the R&A to drive change in the game.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A talks in a press conference prior to the AIG Women's Open at Muirfield. Picture: Alex Burstow/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A talks in a press conference prior to the AIG Women's Open at Muirfield. Picture: Alex Burstow/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

The total prize fund for the season’s final major has been increased by $1.5m, a rise of 26 per cent, on last year, when Swede Anna Nordqvist landed the title at Carnoustie.

The figure, which will see the new champion on Sunday on the East Lothian coast pocket $1.095m, also represents a 125 per cent increase since 2018, the year before AIG’s partnership with the R&A, which runs the event, commenced.

Speaking at Muirfield, where the tournament is being held for the first time, Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, said: “Last year, we led the way in substantially increasing the prize fund of the AIG Women's Open and, in AIG, we have the support of a deeply-trusted partner to elevate the event.

“It's to be commended that other championships have increased their prize-money significantly this year, too.”

The US Women’s Open received the biggest of those boosts as the pot for the 2022 edition jumped from $5.5m to $10m.

This year’s Chevron Championship, meanwhile, was worth $5 million, with the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and Evian Championship both offering prize funds totalling $4.5m.

Muirfield is staging the AIG Women’s Open six years after an initial attempt by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to admit women members led to a ‘no’ vote.

On the back of that, the R&A, with Slumbers as the driving force, said that Muirfield would not be considered to host any events until that situation was resolved and a second vote did indeed see the decision overturned in 2017.

“Yeah, I think 2016, it was an important time for this sport and for the R&A,” admitted Slumbers of that stance. “I had only been in the organisation a few months. We had been working very hard on a strategy for the R&A that had inclusivity very much as a part of it.

“We were in the beginning stages of merging with the Ladies Golf Union, and frankly, that merger transformed the R&A into where we are today.

“I think that when you think back over that six-year period since then, women's golf has really exploded, and it's got a long way to go yet. But I do think that that time will be viewed as pivotal in that change.”

This week’s historic event follows 16 men’s Opens being played at Muirfield, with big crowds set to turn out on Scotland’s Golf Coast over the next four days.

“This week is the showpiece of the R&A's commitment to women's golf, but it goes much further than just this one week. It's woven into all we do,” said Slumbers.

“We need to increase the number of women and girls, not only playing golf, but we also need to create opportunities for women in leadership.

“And I am personally very proud of the R&A Women in Golf Leadership Development Programme which by the end of this year, will have seen a hundred women from all over the world complete the programme, including the R&A's own Zoe Ridgway, who is the championship director this week.”

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