First Published by The First Call

Michael Whan, the USGA’s new CEO, took the stage at a press conference in New York City on Friday morning having just watched a video celebrating the U.S. Women’s Open. In the video, Juli Inkster was shown exuberantly celebrating one of her two U.S. Women’s Open victories.

“I like that fist pump, Juli,” Whan said to Inkster, who was in attendance. “This is going to be a fist-pump moment today.”

Indeed the moment was when Whan not only announced the U.S. Women’s Open’s first presenting partner, ProMedica, but also that the prize purse would leap from $5.5 million to $10 million beginning with June’s championship at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C.

“As a little girl, I was the little golfer who said four feet for the win for the U.S. Women’s Open,” LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said. “So it’s always meant so much to me. This is just a huge moment.

“For the LPGA, for me personally, I don’t know that people know the impact of something like this for women, women’s sports, young girls. I think little girls and big dreams. This announcement will just further the idea that, if you can see it, you can be it.”

Whan also harkened back to July when he took over as CEO and told USGA staffers and executive members to “let’s love our history, but let’s not be afraid to make a little history too because sometimes when you love your history, it’s hard to step away and make a little bit more.”

And history was at the center of the third piece of Friday’s announcement. Whan announced that the U.S. Women’s Open would visit five iconic venues — all clubs with a rich history of hosting U.S. Opens — over the next decade.

The five sites will be Riviera Country Club (2026); Inverness Club (2027); Pinehurst No. 2 (2029); Interlachen Country Club (2030); and Oakland Hills Country Club (2031 and 2042). This is in addition to Pebble Beach Golf Links (2023), Erin Hills (2025), Oakmont Country Club (2028 and 2038) and Merion Golf Club (2034 and 2046) being announced.

For Pebble Beach, Erin Hills, Riviera, Inverness, Oakland Hills and Merion, it will be their first time hosting a U.S. Women’s Open. The 2026 Open will be part of the Pacific Palisades, Calif., club’s centennial celebration. The 2029 Open will be played similar to 2014, when the men and women played on back-to-back weeks at No. 2.

The women have three-time major champion Nick Price, a USGA executive committee member, partly to thank for the bolstered roster of upcoming venues. Four years ago, the committee was discussing future men’s and women’s Open sites.

“Nick looked over at me and just said something very simple that’s become a bit of a guiding star for us,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. “He said, ‘John, it’s important where players win their U.S. Open, men and women.’ We built a strategic approach around that.”

But little of these transforming moments would be possible were it not for the presenting partnership.

ProMedica, a Toledo, Ohio, based nonprofit is an integrated health and well-being organization. The company’s mission, Whan said, aligns well with the USGA and its investment helps boost the purse.

“This partnership with ProMedica allows us to substantially grow the championship in every way, from its purpose, to its purse, to the places that host the event,” he said.