Women's Open buzz set to tee off

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

This has to be the quietest lead-up in the history of major London sports events.

The CN Canadian Women's Open tees off at the London Hunt and Country Club in about eight weeks but you could hear a pin drop, and not the kind with a flag on it.

Where's the buzz, the kind that preceded the Scott Tournament of Hearts and the Memorial Cup? In the run-up to those events, you were afraid to turn on your kitchen tap in case another promo came splashing out.

It's hard to get a fix on where this one sits in relation to other events such as the 1993 Canadian Women's Open, which also was at the Hunt.

Fear not, say the guys who are running it. The buzz is just beginning, promised RCGA public relations person Anthony Alfred. People will be talking women's golf tour and London before long as publicity and advertising thrusts get rolling in earnest Monday for the Aug. 10-13 tournament, he assured.

Attendance numbers at the moment, he said, put the tournament at just more than 42,000, already 4,000 more than the 1993 Open. Last year, 53,000 attended in Halifax.

Television advertising begins Monday, said Alfred, a veteran publicist formerly with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tennis Canada events.

Doug Alexander, tournament co-chair representing the Hunt, said corporate sales initiated a few months back are at more than 90 per cent and surpass last year's event.

Alexander and co-chair Susan Holliday provide the hundreds of volunteers required for such events.

The RCGA runs the tournament itself.

Alexander said comparisons to the more active early runs for other major events at the John Labatt Centre are unfair.

"A golf tournament is not like an event at the JLC," the tournament veteran said. "It isn't a case of first-come gets the best seats in the house. It will be very busy, but we'll still be able to take people at the gate."

Some media have developed an eerie feeling about it, though, perhaps a result of events at a press conference/fan/sponsor function in mid-May.

In a bizarre media relations twist, photographers were not allowed on the Hunt Club's hallowed ground to take photos of several LPGA Tour stars brought in to play a round.

Reporters on hand said it was like being invited to a media event only to find it was mainly a love-in for the sponsor, organizers and autograph-seekers. Trying to accommodate the media in such circumstances is the bane of publicists everywhere.

Alfred said a media golf day at the Hunt on Tuesday will include an announcement of the names of more participants shooting for a piece of the $1.7-million purse. Front-rank confirmed players are Americans Natalie Gulbis and 30-event tour winner Juli Inkster, Canadian star Lorie Kane and South Korean Se Ri Pak.

A strong American and Korean presence is expected, but the timing will preclude a number of the top Europeans, many of whom will be participating in Swedish superstar Annika Sorenstam's tournament.

Kernels

A memorial service for longtime boxing trainer Frank Rodriguez is tomorrow at All Saints Church, 249 Hamilton Rd., at 2 p.m. He died of cancer last fall . . . It was nice to see a lone Canadian flag fluttering from a car window yesterday amid the flags of the various countries in the World Cup. It would be even nicer if Canada was among the 32 in Germany.


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