It’s not about the money, players say, but many lives will be changed by the $10 million purse

SOUTHERN PINES, NC — Stephanie Meadow finished third in her professional debut at the 2014 US Women’s Open on No. 2 Pinehurst. She earned $285,102 for her efforts, a staggering sum for a recent college graduate.

“I had a rough time when I was 16 and 17,” Meadow said of the years immediately following her father Robert’s death. “The money got me through there.”

The US Women’s Open purse has long had a life-changing impact, not just for winners, but for many like Meadow, who cash the biggest checks of their careers. Some, like her, will not be touring members yet.

This week, that’s likely to happen more than ever, with a historic $10 million in prize money on the table thanks in large part to the inclusion of ProMedica, the championship’s inaugural presenting sponsor.

Brittany Lang echoes the thoughts of many of her peers when she says that gambling on the LPGA was never about the money. When she won that championship in 2016, she recalls walking into the parking lot with her mother and brother and asking, “What do you win for that?” I do not even know.”

It was always about the dream.

“Now that I’m about to give it up,” Lang said, “and I have a daughter, and you start thinking about money and playing worse.”

Lang made $810,000 by winning the CordeValle Open.

The winner of this week’s championship will receive $1.8 million. The player who finishes second will receive $1,080,000. That’s more than last year’s winner, Yuka Saso, who earned $1 million.

“Honestly, the thought of a $10 million purse just blows my mind, to be honest with you,” said former Major champion Karen Stupples. “I don’t even know how to think about money in those terms and how — what it means to put in your bank account, what potential there is in a big piece, even for a 30th or 40th place finish.”

Even those who miss the cut this week will get $8,000, double what they received last year.

Mathilde Castren

Mathilde Castren

Matilda Castren lifts the trophy during the final round of the 2021 LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, California. Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Early in her career, Matilda Castren had three seasons where she lost money. She gave herself five years to earn her LPGA card and make it.

“I remember looking at my bank account and there was $10 left,” Castren said. “Okay, I just have to survive until next month and then I know I’ll get a check. That’s a really common thing. I think a lot of people don’t know that. People just think that every week you live your dream of playing golf. It really isn’t that simple.”

Castren, 27, won seven times in college at Florida State and competed on the Epson Tour until earning her LPGA card for the 2020 season through Q-School. In 2021, she won the LPGA Mediheal Championship, becoming the first player from Finland to win on tour. She earned $225,000 for her win.

“It just felt so surreal,” she said, “just logging into my mobile app and seeing all the zeros.”

A now-engaged Meadow wants to buy a house in the near future, but must balance the risk of parting with a large chunk of money against the possibility that she could get injured or go through another rough patch with little money coming in.

“I think the older you get,” she said, “the more you realize how lucky the[PGA Tour]guys are.”

How big is 10 million dollars? Keep in mind that next week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic prize pool is $1,750,000. There are 15 events on the LPGA schedule with less than $2 million in prize money.

“We don’t start playing golf for money,” said veteran Carolina Masson. “That’s not the incentive, that’s not the reason. But when you come here, especially as a young player, money is an issue because you need a lot of money to do what you do for a whole season.

“Playing for that kind of money is huge; There are so many possibilities.”

List

Q&A: Morgan Pressel on the history of the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles, her move to TV and putting by Lexi Thompson

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