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More money for LPGA in 2001

More than half of the LPGA Tour's 37 events will offer prize money of at least $1 million, making the 2001 schedule the strongest in the 50-year history of the women's tour, commissioner Ty Votaw said today.

"We are well on our way toward reaching our previously announced goal of having all of our official money purses up to $1 million by 2003,'' Votaw said.

The four majors -- Nabisco Championship, McDonald's LPGA Championship, U.S. Women's Open, and the Weetabix Women's British Open -- will have prize money of at least $1.5 million, with the U.S. Open offering the richest prize in women's golf, $2.75 million.

With 37 official events and a total purse of $39.5 million, the LPGA will average over $1 million per tournament for the first time.

At least 19 tournaments will have $1 million purses, and Votaw said that could increase to 22 when negotiations are completed with tournament sponsors. Only 12 tournaments had $1 million purses in 1996.

The growth is significant because the LPGA does not benefit from massive network television contracts like the PGA Tour. Instead, it has to buy television time for most of its tournaments.

"I think this reflects the strength in how our sponsors feel about the LPGA and the quality of the fields and the quality of the tournaments we have on our schedule,'' Votaw said.

The LPGA is coming off a solid year in which it celebrated its 50th anniversary and had three players -- Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, and Meg Mallon -- earn more than $1 million, the first time that many players had broken the $1 million mark.

Television details are still being worked out, but Votaw said the package would feature over 250 hours on network and cable.

Four new events in new markets are on the 2001 schedule, replacing four tournaments in which the sponsors did not renew contracts.

The season will begin at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla., with the Classic. Other new markets include the Williams Championship in Tulsa, Okla.; Sports Today Open in Korea; and the Canadian Women's Open in Aurora, Ontario.

The Canadian Women's Open replaces the du Maurier Classic, which ended a 21-year run as a major championship because of tobacco legislation. The fourth major will be the Women's British Open, played at Suningdale in England two weeks after the men's British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The U.S. Women's Open, played opposite the British Open at St. Andrews last year, will move to the first weekend in June at Pine Needles in North Carolina.


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