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At U.S. Women's Open, these women are well worth watching

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Women athletes are worth watching. Period.

Seems simple enough, but in a world where women’s sports receive just 4 percent of the overall coverage, despite making up 40 percent of its participants, it seems worth repeating.

Women are worth watching.

This week, that shocking statistic is one the USGA is utilizing on social media to bring attention to the U.S. Women’s Open, which begins Thursday at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. It’s not the first time the hashtag #WomenWorthWatching has been used across social media. It originated from SheIs, the first organization formed to connect leaders in women’s and men’s sports with one clear objective: to rally fans in an effort to grow women’s sports. The USGA and LPGA began partnering with SheIs in January.

This week, Bryson DeChambeau, the USGA’s most recent champion and winner of the U.S. Open, along with the PGA Tour’s Jason Day and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps were among the athletes who have used their social platforms to promote the U.S. Women’s Open. The NWHL, who is also a partner with SheIs, also shared the hashtag on Twitter.

“It's awesome. Every year I think women's sport is trending in the right direction,” Nelly Korda said Tuesday when asked about the initiative. “It's awesome to see that all these organizations are getting behind it and spreading the word.”

In countries like the Republic of Korea, women have long been worth watching. Often, women’s golf leads the television ratings. Korean Inbee Park can’t walk down the street or shop at the grocery store without being noticed because women’s golf is so popular in her native country. Park also has a home base in Las Vegas, Nevada where the seven-time major champion and Olympic gold medalist says she mostly goes unrecognized.

“I really appreciate how much attention we get back home,” Park said Wednesday. “Hopefully it gets to the same level here. That's what we are driving for.”

#WomenWorthWatching is just the latest initiative used by the USGA to grow women’s golf.

As host of the longest-running major Championship in the women’s game dating back to 1950, they’ve been a pioneer in promoting the game for women when few sporting opportunities were available. In 1965, the U.S. Women’s Open became the first women’s golf event to be televised and 30 years later the USGA became the first to offer a $1 million dollar purse to women.

In 2019, the organization once again took the lead in pushing the industry forward when the U.S. Women’s Open became the first event in the women’s game to award $1 million dollars to the winner of the Championship. The move pushed other major championships and sponsors on the LPGA Tour to follow suit and in 2019 the CME Group Tour Championship became the first to award $1.5 million dollars to a winner on Tour, a move likely generated by the forward momentum spurred by the USGA.

This year, when playing opportunities have been dramatically reduced due to COVID-19, the USGA is offering the largest purse in the women’s game with a $5.5 million dollar purse and $1 million dollar winner’s check.

“I'm very thankful that we are in the trending direction every year since I've been out here since 2012,” said Danielle Kang, a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. “I only see positives and can't wait to see what's in store for us in the future.”

What the future holds for women’s golf – increased purses, more network airtime and additional playing opportunities - largely hinges on more companies and fans taking notice of what those who follow women’s golf have long known.

Women athletes are worth watching.