Golf: Prize-money halved for women's Tour opener

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GOLFERS on the European women's Tour are angry that the prize- money for the KRP World Classic in Kuala Lumpur, the opening event of the season which begins today, has been halved. Instead of playing for a purse of pounds 200,000, the field of 63 will now have a total of pounds 100,000 with a first prize of pounds 14,333.

What has clearly annoyed the players is that the Tour rule that prize-money should be paid 28 days before a tournament was not adhered to. They only learned about the problem when they arrived in Malaysia this week.

'Had I realised that the prize- money had been halved I would have played in Florida this week. It has cost me pounds 900 in air fares for my caddie and myself,' said Trish Johnson, one of six members of the winning Solheim Cup side here. Laura Davies, the No 1 player on the Tour, added: 'Most of the girls would have played for the reduced money, but some would have cut back and probably not brought a caddie with them.'

Andrea Doyle, the executive director of the European Tour, said: 'It would have been a great pity if this tournament was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. We have, therefore, worked with the organisers in order to find a solution to enable the event to continue albeit with a reduced prize fund.' The reduction has been made because of a shortfall of funds from the sponsors and Encik Ramlan Harun, the deputy chairman of the organising committee, is still trying to raise an additional pounds 50,000.

Even though this latest setback is an unhappy start to the 1993 Tour, 20 British players are playing in the five-tournament Asian circuit which opens in Thailand next week. Davies, winner of three events last year, is hoping for a fast start to the season today over the Rahman Putra course where the new clubhouse, costing over pounds 6m, was officially opened yesterday. The course was built four years ago and and now has 2,700 members whose facilities include a gymnasium, tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

'My last tournament was in Australia in December but I seem to be hitting the ball quite well,' said Davies after playing nine holes early yesterday morning when the temperature was already over 90F. England's Alison Nicholas and Kitrina Douglas, Scotland's Dale Reid and Catrin Nilsmark, from Sweden, are the other members of the winning Solheim Cup side who will be in action today.

Reid has arrived here from Australia where she collected a pounds 21,000 hole-in-one jackpot at the Australian Masters in Queensland. Reid, the winner of a record 21 Tour titles, leads the career money list with winnings of pounds 353,969, but she could be overtaken this week by the Australian Corinne Dibnah, who has closed to within pounds 824 of the Scot.