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The Japan LPGA tour will add three tournaments to its schedule in 2006, taking total prize money to a record level as a new generation of players continue to boost interest in women’s golf in Japan.

The 2006 schedule released Tuesday by the Japan LPGA features 36 tournaments and combined prize money of 2.66 billion yen, an increase of 433 million yen from the amount offered in 33 events this year.

The Accordia Golf Ladies and the Kinmirai Tsushin Queens Open, two of the three new tournaments, will be held in March following the season-opening Daikin Orchid Ladies scheduled for March 3-5 in Okinawa. The third addition, the Philanthropy LPGA Players Championship, will be played in July.

Seven tournaments will offer 100 million yen or more in prize money, compared with three this year, with significant increases of 40 million yen in the Salonpas World Ladies and 30 million yen in the Japan LPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup.

The Japan LPGA circuit has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity in recent years with the rise of young talent, most notably Ai Miyazato — an affable 20-year-old who won five tournaments in her first full year on the tour and added six this year.

Miyazato also grabbed attention overseas by winning the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf in South Africa in February and earning a U.S. LPGA tour card with her record-setting victory at the qualifying tournament earlier this month.

Miyazato will shift her playing base to the United States next year and is expected to make limited appearances in Japan.

“It’s all on the shoulders of the other players. I believe the fans will continue to pay attention to our tour if they play well and make tournaments interesting,” Japan LPGA chief Hisako Higuchi said.

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