Open debate: women's purse not up to par

June 03, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WEST POINT, Miss. -- What was supposed to be a pleasant little news conference to announce the site of a future U.S. Women's Open turned into a rather testy session on gender equity yesterday at Old Waverly.

There to announce that the 2002 Women's Open will be played at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., the chairman of the event's championship committee found herself defending the USGA's policy to pay half the prize money as it does for the men.

"We're working on that," said Mary Capouch, a member of the committee for 16 years. "The U.S. Women's Open has grown in the last few years, particularly the last five years. We're proving our worth as a USGA championship."

Capouch said that the committee's request to bump up the prize money -- the women's purse is $1.75 million, with $315,000 to the champion, compared to $3.5 million and $625,000 for the men -- has fallen on deaf ears.

"I feel we're doing better at having listening ears," Capouch said. "We've asked for equal prize money but it's been an unrealistic question, and we realize that. We will also ask for something realistic and we hope we get it."

Capouch also defended the USGA's recent trend of playing the Women's Open in remote locations such as this one, where major airports are more than two hours away, or in direct competition with more high-profile men's events.

Next year's Women's Open will be played at the Merit Club outside Chicago, the same week as the British Open at St. Andrews, which is likely to be the last one in which Jack Nicklaus will play.

"We feel like we're in a major metropolitan area and we're still going to get good coverage," Capouch said. "We feel we can take the Women's Open anywhere and be successful."

Pub Date: 6/03/99

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