Meghan MacLaren has welcomed news of a significant increase in the prize fund for this year’s Women’s British Open.
The R&A announced yesterday that the money for this year’s edition of the championship has risen by almost 40% to $4.5m, with the winner taking home $675,000. That’s a significant hike on the $490,000 Georgia Hall pocketed for her win at Royal Lytham & St Annes last year.
Speaking to bunkered.co.uk, two-time Ladies European Tour winner MacLaren described the development as “positive news”.
“It’s great for women’s golf that somebody, and particularly as big an organisation as the R&A, is making a stand,” said the English ace. “I actually thought [R&A chief executive] Martin Slumbers’ comments were really interesting. He described the news as ‘the first step’. I quite liked that. It shows that they’re not just throwing money at a tournament but that they are committed to helping grow and develop the game in a wider sense.”
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MacLaren has become a passionate advocate for women’s game over the past few years and hopes yesterday’s news could ultimately lead to equal pay for men and women in their respective ‘British’ Opens.
“I’m not sure I can see us getting to the point where there’s equal prize money on offer for every single event, nor do I think there necessarily should be,” she added. “But the Open and Women’s British Open has to be a possibility. It would be such a strong statement to recognise both tournaments on an equal footing and say we have every bit as much respect for women’s golf as men’s.
"It’s an issue that is bigger than golf in a lot of ways but to have equal prize money for those two events – two of the biggest events in the game – would be huge.”
MacLaren added she believes that right now women’s sport is "in the middle of a moment" just now on the back of a hugely successful World Cup and with the biggest storylines at Wimbledon being dominated made by young female tennis players such as Coco Gauff.
“We’ve got a fantastic new sponsor for the Women’s British Open in AIG and Barclays is sponsoring the new women’s football Super League, so big business is starting to sit up, take notice and invest,” added the 25-year-old. “That, in itself, tells me that things are moving in the right direction.
“The really encouraging thing is that it’s not just talk any more. It’s one thing to have conversations. It’s one thing to know people are listening. It’s a whole other thing to see change happening. That’s where we seem to be right now, and that’s really exciting.”
From her own point of view, MacLaren intends to continue to use her profile and her voice to promote the women’s game and, where necessary, draw attention to disparity and issues that might otherwise be glossed over.
“Part of me is tempted to back off and concentrate on my own game but I know that wouldn’t be right,” she added. “I feel so much more positive than I did even just a year or so ago. Sure, you still get some people who say things that you just can’t believe but for every handful of criticism and negativity that comes my way, I get so much in the way of support.