It might have been lost in the news from the LPGA last week about overall purse increases and a new strategic alliance with the Ladies European Tour, but the ANA Inspiration raised it purse for the 2020 season.
The purse for next April is now $3.1 million, up from $3 million in 2019. That might not sound like a huge increase, but it is significant for a couple of reasons. First, any increase is a good increase in a golf purse, and for the LPGA in particular.
Second, it's in keeping with the overall trend of higher purses on the LPGA. In announcing its 2020 schedule of 33 tournaments in 11 countries, the women's tour announced a record of $75.1 million in prize money for its players.
Finally, there is the commitment to the first major championship of the year by sponsor ANA. The last year of Kraft's sponsorship of the tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage was in 2014, and the purse of the event was $2 million. In ANA's first year as sponsor after International Management Group took over operations of the event, the purse jumped to $2.5 million. Increases of $100,000 came each of the next three years before a jump to $3 million in 2019. Now it's $3.1 million for 2020. That's an increase of 55 percent in six years under ANA's sponsorship, and that's significant no matter the bottom-line numbers.
It is significant for another reason you might not think about. The 2019 tournament was not a particularly pleasing one for ANA or IMG. The event was played against the new Augusta National Women's Amateur, and the ANWA gained most of the attention of the golf world that week, a shame since the best women's golfers in the world were playing in Rancho Mirage, not Augusta, Ga.
When word came just a few weeks later than the ANA Inspiration was talking about moving dates to avoid the same conflict in 2020, it was obvious that ANA and IMG were not pleased with how the head-to-head matchup had gone down.
In the end, ANA and the LPGA agreed not to move the tournament dates in 2020. And now ANA is announcing a small purse increase. The conflict will still exist in 2020, but ANA is showing at least good faith in the tournament and the women's game in increasing its purse.
Now, the event doesn't have the same purse as the other LPGA majors, but most of those majors have large golf organizations (think USGA, R and A and PGA of America) behind them. ANA is a lone corporation putting the money up for advertising and marketing as well as its belief in women's golf.
So don't take the $100,000 increase in the ANA Inspiration purse lightly. It still signifies a commitment to the tournament and to the game from the sponsor.