- Women's Open
The Women’s Open – originally named the Ladies’ British Open then the Women's British Open – was established as a four-round stroke play competition by the Ladies’ Golf Union in 1976, with the first edition taking place at Fulford in Yorkshire. Jenny Lee Smith won that inaugural event as an amateur but, not to belittle her achievement, it must be remembered there were few professional women golfers in Britain at that time – indeed, amateur players won three of the first seven Opens.
In 1987, Weetabix took over sponsorship of the event – this association with the breakfast cereal firm lasted twenty years – and that year’s championship was played over the new Nicklaus-designed course at St. Mellion in Cornwall. Defending champion Laura Davies had just become the first person to hold both the US Women’s Open and Women’s British Open titles at the same time but she was edged out of retaining the trophy by Alison Nicholas.
The Open was an official stop on the Ladies’ European Tour until it was upgraded to the status of an LPGA tournament in 1994, increasing the quality of the field and the profile of the event. Seven years later, it became an LPGA major, replacing the du Maurier Classic in Canada. Prize money amounting to US$1 million at the end of the 1990s would then increase more than four-fold over the following two decades.
Ricoh, the global leader in digital office solutions, took over title sponsorship of the Open in 2007 and the event that year became the first ever professional women’s tournament to be played on the Old Course at St Andrews, with Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa winning her first major title by four shots from her nearest challenger. Twelve years later, the leading global insurance company AIG took over as the competition sponsor.
A few trophies have been connected with the championship. For the first decade, the original prize was a pair of ornate silver candlesticks mounted upon a wooden plinth. The exception to this was the 1984 championship (sponsored by Hitachi) when Japan’s Ayako Okamoto was presented with a crystal trophy. The first five years of the Weetabix-sponsored era saw a gold trophy awarded to the winner, followed thereafter by a crystal bowl from 1992 to 2006. The current trophy was introduced the next year.
Unlike its male equivalent, the Women's Open has not adopted a links-only policy with regard to where it’s played, which greatly increases the range of potential venues, though the championship has been hosted at several courses on the modern day Open rota. Surprisingly, courses in Ireland and Wales have yet to feature on the play list for this prestigious ladies competition.
Woburn Golf Club has staged eleven editions of the Women’s Open, with Royal Birkdale (six times; 1982–2014) and Royal Lytham & St Annes (five times; 1998-2018) hosting the same number collectively. Who knows, perhaps the former male bastions of golf at Muirfield and Royal St George’s are seen as future host clubs by the R&A, who now run the event after merging with the LGU in 2017?
Two women hold the record number of wins (3) for the championship and they are Australian Karrie Webb (1995, 1997, 2002) and American Sherri Steinhauer (1998, 1999, 2006). In the first twenty years of the new millennium, half the tournaments were won by Asian golfers, which is no great surprise considering the standard of female players that have emerged from Asia. Home nation victors in recent years are limited to Karen Stupples in 2004, Catriona Matthew in 2009 and Georgia Hall in 2011.
Women's Open Top 100 Leaderboard
B-NL Challenge Trophy