Outlandish prize checks have become the norm in men’s professional golf, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the best women in the world are typically playing for full-field purses that are the equivalent of what a winner on the PGA Tour takes home.
While the major championships see larger purses for the women — in the $3-4 million range — the end-of-the-year CME Group Tour Championship upped the ante this season. Instead of offering a tournament purse and a bonus pool, the LPGA Tour and the sponsor decided to combine them into one, making this past weekend’s event a true winner-take-all affair.
With a $5 million purse up for grabs, $1.5 million was set to go to the winner (the richest prize in the history of women’s golf) and 26-year-old Sei Young Kim did not back down from the moment. Shooting rounds of 65-67-68 to lead through 54 holes, the South Korean showed some nerves down the stretch, but was able to keep hold of her lead.
England’s Charley Hull put the pedal down on Sunday in Naples as she birdied her final three holes — and five of her last 7 — to reach 17-under par to tie Kim. All of this was unbeknownst to Kim. She thought she had Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang to worry about — she did, they both finished at 16-under par — but Hull’s fast and furious finish put the pressure on.
Slightly pulling her approach into the final green, Kim faced a 25-foot birdie putt for the win from the top of a ridge. With the largest prize in women’s golf on the line, Kim nailed it.
“I didn’t know Charley finished at 17 (under),” Kim said, according to GolfChannel.com. “What if I couldn’t make it? I could go to a playoff. It’s not good for me. It was really nervous when walking through hole 18. I was like: ‘OK, not a big deal. Try to play like a practice round.’ Even then, I was really nervous.”
For Hull, to not win was difficult, but the format change benefitted her more than most. With just one top-10 on the year and No. 51 of 60 in the field, her runner-up finish earned her $480,000.
For both Hull and Kim, their checks on Sunday eclipsed their season-long earnings; Hull had made $405,961 in her previous 21 events this year and Kim had made $1,253,099 up to that point.
Jin Young Ko, a four-time winner on the circuit, including two majors this year, finished in 11th place, which made her the leading money earner on the circuit in a Player of the Year campaign.