RALEIGH — The U.S. Open and Women’s U.S. Open golf championships are both scheduled to return to the Sandhills over the next two years.
But that’s not what’s creating the biggest buzz around “The cradle of American golf” these days.
Anticipation is already growing for 2029, when the USGA has announced it wil bring its two signature events back to Pinehurst on consecutive weeks. It will mark just the second time ever that the U.S. Open and Women’s Open will be played on the same course back-to-back.
The first time, in 2014, was also on Pinehurst’s famed No. 2 course with American Michelle Wie and German Martin Kaymer taking home the championship trophies.
“Having the world’s best male and female players here for two consecutive weeks was a historic and unforgettable experience in 2014,” said Pinehurst Resort CEO Bob Dedman Jr. “To know we will again see them interact and compete on the same course is awe-inspiring. We are grateful to the USGA for the opportunity to serve as the site for one of the most unique experiences in all of golf.”
Pinehurst and the USGA have had a long and successful relationship over the years. In 2020, the golf’s governing body announced that it planned to locate its second headquarters at the resort and that its famed No. 2 course would serve as an “anchor site” for future championships.
In addition to the upcoming Men’s Open in 2024, Pinehurst is already scheduled to host the event again in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.
The decision to add the Women’s Open to that schedule in 2029 is part of a years-long effort to, in the words of the USGA’s chief championships officer John Bodenhamer, “empower” the event and help raise its profile to a similar level as the Men’s Open.
With the help of its new presenting sponsor, Ohio-based health organization PreMedica, the USGA has also significantly increased its prize money for the women’s event.
The purse for this year’s Women’s Open – which will be held from June 2-5 at Pine Needles in Southern Pines will be $10 million, nearly double the $5.5 million in prize money paid out in 2021 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The winner will earn $1.8 million – more than all but three female golfers made for the entire 2021 season according to Golfweek magazine.
“We want (this championship) to have an even greater purpose in what happens inside the ropes and what happens outside of the ropes,” USGA CEO and former LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said in announcing the changes last week.
“We want to take this championship to the places that young girls dream about today and dream about 20 years from today. We want to create a purse that captures your attention at the same time and sends a message to young girls all around the world that think this is a pursuit they want to follow.”
This year’s Women’s Open will be the fourth hosted by Pine Needles, the resort founded by the legendary Hall of Famer Peggy Kirk Bell.
Annika Sorenstam won the first in 1996, followed by Karrie Webb in 2001 and Cristie Kerr in 2007. In addition to Kaymer in 2014, Michael Campbell in 2005 and Payne Stewart in 1999 were the champions of Pinehurst’s previous Men’s Open.
Stewart’s win, earned by a single stroke over Phil Mickleson just four months before his tragic death in a private plane crash, has become one of the most iconic in golf history. A statue commemorating his victory celebration stands only a few feet behind the 18th green on which he sank his winning putt.
The fact that the back-to-back Men’s and Women’s Opens in 2029 will take place on the 30th anniversary of Stewart’s triumph only adds to the significance of the occasion.
“There will certainly be a few tears shed over those two weeks, but the feeling of joy as the best players in the world converge on one of the world’s great golf courses will be overwhelming,” Pinehurst president Tom Pashley said in a statement. “No one wants to wish away time, but to say we can’t wait for 2029 would be a historic understatement.”