By Matt Smith
With the big news emanating from the Ladies European Tour that February’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International will have a purse of $5 million — up from $1 million — England’s Georgia Hall says this statement is just what the game of golf needed.
With the 2023 winner pocketing a cheque for $750,000, the total purse is equal to that of the men’s Saudi International on the Asian Tour — quite a landmark moment.
Georgia Hall, the 2022 Saudi International champion, speaking after her first round at the Aramco Team Series — Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Thursday, said: “It’s incredible. Speaking in the locker room, all the players are all really excited to play here in February next year, and we should certainly get a strong field from the LPGA too.
“It is such a strong statement by Golf Saudi, and hopefully other sponsors can continue to raise the bar for women’s golf.
“This really is what women in sport and golfers needed, and deserved. We are all so grateful to Golf Saudi and what Majed [Al Sorour, CEO and Deputy Chairman] and Yasir [Al Rumayyan, Chairman] have done for us.
“Both the Aramco Team Series and Saudi International events have gone from strength to strength every time I have come here, and I hope that will continue.”
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) November 9, 2022
It certainly is a good time to be a female golf pro as this follows on from the announcement on Tuesday from the LPGA Tour that next year’s The Annika will offer a $3.5 million purse.
The 120-strong field for the Saudi Ladies International, which will be played February 16-19 at Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City, will be comprised of LET golfers, those from the Rolex Rankings and sponsor exemptions.
Waleed Muath, Golf Saudi General Counsel, added: “This is an exciting time for us at Golf Saudi and by seeing this tournament here in Saudi shows how we are growing the game and will continue to do that to see stronger fields here once again.”
Alexandra Armas, the CEO of the LET, was equally excited by the news.
“This is hugely significant, for two reasons. Firstly to have a prize fund that is equivalent to the men, and also allowing the ladies to earn the money they deserve.
“Already our relationship with Golf Saudi and Aramco is strong, and now seeing that reflected in the prize fund is magnificent. We hope it will get stronger and stronger in the future.
“The infrastructure, from the course to catering, is all top notch at Royal Greens and we can only see that getting better and better.
“A lot of the players love this course, especially Georgia, so we are delighted to now have two massive events on this course, to match the men [Saudi International and LIV Golf].”
There was a surprise return to competitive action for Suzann Pettersen just outside Jeddah. Three years ago, the Norwegian retired at Gleneagles after she holed the winning putt at the 2019 Solheim Cup.
Pettersen returned as a vice-captain under Catriona Matthew at the 2021 edition where Team Europe defended their title on US soil.
And now she has decided to pick up her clubs again to get to know the players she will captain for the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
“As part of my captaincy role for next year’s Solheim Cup in Spain, I have decided to play in a few events and play a few Pro-Ams to get to know the players better,” she said.
Hover, when asked if she would be tempted to throw her name in for the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, she laughed: “Four rounds of competitive golf doesn’t suit me anymore, so I think I will have to sit it out.”
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