Major status for British Women's Open

The Weetabix Women's British Open will become one of the four designated majors in women's golf next year, it was confirmed today.

The Weetabix Women's British Open will become one of the four designated majors in women's golf next year, it was confirmed today.

A vacancy arose when the Du Maurier Classic, a victim of Canada's ban on tobacco sponsorship, was staged for the last time in August.

"We have chosen the Weetabix Women's British Open because it met all the guidelines we were looking for in a major," said Ty Votaw, commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

"It proved to be the most compelling choice for the long-term growth and success of the LPGA, as well as the overwhelming favourite among the media, our players and our fans.

"It carries with it the tradition, prestige and cache one associates with a major championship and we have a sponsor that has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the LPGA and women's golf."

Next year's tournament will have increased prize money of about £850,000 - a rise of about £140,000 - and will be at Sunningdale on August 2-5, thus avoiding a clash this time with Tiger Woods' defence of the final men's major, the USPGA championship in Atlanta.

Swede Sophie Gustafson won at Royal Birkdale this summer, but for her defence will find network television coverage on both sides of the Atlantic for the first time. BBC and ABC will be screening the event.

A qualifying tournament will be held in the United States to complete a field of 138, with exempt places being given to the top 15 this year, the top 70 on the LPGA money list, leading players on the European and Japanese circuits, past champions and several top amateurs.

Elizabeth Earnshaw, chairman of the organising Ladies' Golf Union, said: "It is a great honour for us that our championship has been raised to the equivalent status in the women's game as the Royal and Ancient's Open holds in theirs."

It does not have the same history, however. The Open began in 1860, the Women's Open in 1976.

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