NEW YORK — The game of golf received an exciting lift on Thursday at Chelsea Piers Golf Club on the west side of Manhattan.
The United States Golf Association (USGA), together with Ally Financial, announced an exciting partnership that will help grow the game across the country for all walks of life.
First and foremost, Ally becomes the presenting sponsor of the U.S. Women’s Open. They have elevated the purse of the 2024 championship to a record $12 million, a massive increase from where it was just three years ago, at only $5.5 million.
“When I was leaving the LPGA [in 2021], I told a couple of my good friends, I promise I’ll continue leading the best I can. The best I can do at the USGA is this event, the U.S. Women’s Open. It is really the marquee event,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan in an exclusive interview with Playing Through.
Before his time with the USGA, Whan served as the Commissioner of the LPGA.
“Generally, when young women are 12, they are putting to win the U.S. Women’s Open,” Whan added.
“To find a partner that isn’t just interested in the scope that we can deliver, or the hours of coverage on NBC but is really interested in elevating women’s sport, in general, is a perfect storm.”
Ally is committed to investing equal amounts across men’s and women’s sports, and Thursday’s announcement exemplifies that.
The USGA is, too, hence their desire to host the U.S. Women’s Open on some of America’s most outstanding courses.
Last year, Allisen Corpuz won at Pebble Beach, which has hosted the U.S. Open six times on the men’s side.
“This [partnership] allows us to keep pushing on purses, keep pushing on TV,” Whan added.
“And probably most importantly, keep pushing on the quality of the venues we go to. Our list of U.S. Women’s Opens is as good as any major—men’s or women’s—over the next 10 years. We’re really proud of that.”
Here is the complete list of the next 10 U.S. Women’s Opens:
- 2024: Lancaster Country Club — Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- 2025: Erin Hills — Erin, Wisconsin
- 2026: Riviera Country Club — Pacific Palisades, California
- 2027: Inverness Club — Toledo, Ohio
- 2028: Oakmont Country Club — Plum, Pennsylvania
- 2029: Pinehurst No. 2 — Pinehurst, North Carolina
- 2030: Interlachen Country Club — Edina, Minnesota
- 2031: Oakland Hills Country Club — Bloomfield Township, Michigan
- 2032: Los Angeles Country Club — Los Angeles, California
- 2033: Chicago Golf Club — Wheaton, Illinois
All ten of these courses are ranked within the top 100 of Golf Digest’s greatest courses in America, proving that the most significant event in women’s golf will be contested on the grandest of stages.
“I feel like there is so much room for improvement in the women’s game and in women’s golf,” said world number one Lilia Vu in an interview with Playing Through.
“It makes us feel good that corporations and brands like Ally are taking it seriously and are willing to invest in us.”
Along with their investment into the USGA, Ally Financial has partnered with Vu, who won two major championships in 2023. Vu and her caddy, Cole Pensanti, will don a visor with the Ally logo at every tournament this season.
“Their commitment to advancing equity in women’s sports is unprecedented,” Vu added.
“I look forward to working with their team and my fellow brand ambassadors to create change while encouraging others to do the same.”
Furthermore, Ally becomes a founding partner of the U.S. National Development Program, which will help facilitate opportunities for young golfers, regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
This program launched last year, and is the first of its kind in the United States.
Other countries have similar programs, which helps explain why so many international players have succeeded on the LPGA Tour at such a young age.
“I realized pretty quickly that all these women were coming out of different country programs, and they were all so much more ready to compete on a professional level when they walked in,” Whan added.
“They learned how to travel, coach, and stretch, and they’re all really independent. It was not really the case for most Americans, so you usually see a slower pick-up for them. And I realize America wasn’t giving them the same advantage as these other countries were.”
When Whan started at the USGA three years ago, he wanted to create a program that would shepherd America’s youth toward a career in golf. It has been his “passion project” for years, and now this dream has become a reality thanks to Ally’s support.
But how does this program work?
“Keep this local longer,” Whan said.
Let’s say you live in South Carolina, and your daughter has a strong passion for golf at 12 years old. She has excelled, but you have been told to enter her into junior golf circuits nationwide.
Next thing you know, you are traveling from coast to coast, spending money beyond belief.
But that is where the U.S. Developmental Program steps in.
Instead of connecting you with a nationwide junior circuit, this program will introduce you to the Carolina Golf Association, or whatever local golf association is nearest you.
Then, that local golf body, together with the USGA, will create a pathway that best suits you. That includes an introduction to coaches and learning how to properly stretch, practice, and maintain a healthy diet—all important things professional golfers do daily.
This program will provide playing opportunities at the local level, too.
“Through our program, we have made a sponsorship of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), and we have spots in those events,” Whan further explained.
“So we can say, ‘Stay local.’ You don’t have to spend a lot of money. But when you’re ready, when we both feel like you need some greater competition, we’ll get you into those [national] events, and you won’t have to travel for the last three years to qualify for them.”
The USGA will then invite the best 12-year-olds to a few of their “anchor sites” throughout the year.
Perhaps you will visit Pinehurst No. 2 and learn about nutrition and stretching. Six months later, maybe you go to Wisconsin and meet caddies and Division I coaches at Erin Hills. Then, a year later, the USGA will invite you to Oakmont to learn about travel, business, and managing your finances independently.
“All these things become really important as you pursue a professional golf career,” Whan added.
“But if you wait until you are a professional golfer, it is really difficult to catch up.”
For many young Americans, these pathways were not possible, thus creating difficulty and stress once players arrive at the professional level. But these options were not even affordable to many families, because of how expensive the game of golf can be.
And yet, that all changes thanks to the USGA’s partnership with Ally Financial.
The future of the game is in good hands.
Hopefully, more young women will realize that their dreams of becoming a professional golfer can become a reality more easily than ever before.
And once they get there, an abundance of opportunity awaits.