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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States Golf Association will be balancing its championships lineup by launching a U.S. Senior Women's Open in 2018, USGA president Thomas O'Toole Jr announced on Saturday.
"We have studied and discussed the need for this championship for many years and now we can celebrate its introduction," O'Toole said at the annual USGA meeting.
Every championship conducted by the U.S. ruling body for golf has a female counterpart with the exception of the U.S. Senior Open, which has been contested since 1980.
"The opportunity to extend the inspiration of championships to this important part of golf’s family is something we approach with great humility and a sense of duty," O'Toole said.
"Support of the women’s game is at an all-time high. (This) serves a population of our golf community that is hungry to compete for a national title and frankly a sector of golfers we have not serviced before."
Professional and amateur players aged 50 and older will be eligible for the championship, which will be contested over 72 holes of stroke play in four days with a cut after 36 holes.
The venue, field size and details of the qualifying process
have yet to be announced.
"We have been looking at the possibility of this championship for the better part of three decades," USGA executive director Mike Davis told Reuters.
"Years ago we were never quite convinced we could make it successful long term."
Davis said entries have been going up in all USGA women's competitions and their numbers as teaching pros and club pros have also been on the rise.
"This is the right time to start this championship. It will inspire the younger players to keep playing competitively. It did the same thing the first time we had the U.S. Senior Open when the great Roberto De Vicenzo won it at Winged Foot."
Davis predicts the women's event will have global reach.
"The U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Women's Amateur, those are really global championships. We get players from all around the world playing in those. And that's what will happen in this."
Hall of Famer Julie Inkster, winner of 31 LPGA Tour events and seven majors, applauded the announcement.
"I think it's great. Everybody's looking forward to it," Inkster, 54, told Reuters. "I know everybody's excited.
"Jane Crafter and Jane Blalock, they were really pushing for it. To see it come into fruition is nice."
Editing by Justin Palmer/Gene Cherry