Purse draws Birdie Kim

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

London Hunt's appeal and a huge purse are key reasons the CN Canadian Women's Open announced yesterday defending U.S. Open champion Birdie Kim will play.

The rising young star and 13 other former major winners have confirmed they'll play in the national championship Aug. 10-13 at the London Hunt and Country Club.

"With the LPGA players, the purse is the most notable reason to play and the venue is second," Royal Canadian Golf Association tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said during media day at the club. "All the ingredients are here to have a great tournament."

The purse of $1.7 million US rates among the top 10 on tour. Van Kesteren also said the 6,611-yard layout -- the maximum length the women will play on tournament week -- ranks among the top three on the LPGA Tour.

The RCGA also said 2005 British Open winner Jeong Jang, 2004 U.S. Open winner Hilary Lunke and former LPGA tour winners Kelly Robbins, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Pat Hurst will come to London. Also returning to the championship are former winners Nancy Scranton, Cathy Johnson-Forbes and Brandie Burton, who won in 1993 at the Hunt Club.

Last month, the RCGA announced Natalie Gulbis, Se Ri Pak, teenager Morgan Pressel, seven-time major winner Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon and Canadian superstar Lorie Kane had entered.

"We are very pleased to add these major champions to what is quickly becoming a premier field for London," Van Kesteren said. "Each of these players has succeeded on the LPGA Tour's greatest international stages."

Yesterday was also time for the Hunt club to show off the course to Ontario media and an opportunity for the Canadian Women's Open to announce it will begin an intensive six-week television campaign aimed at selling tickets.

The RCGA hopes to sell 60,000 tickets.

RCGA spokesperson Rick Desrosiers also reaffirmed the tournament will donate a minimum of $100,000 to the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario. To help celebrate the commitment, nine-year-old Jonathan Hodge of London, who is recovering from leukemia, was a special guest and played 18 holes with his father Steve and Hunt Club president Lindsey Elwood.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, representing the city, cracked up the media conference when he reminded the Canadian National Railway the city is still waiting for it to pony up millions for the Hale-Trafalgar overpass.

The Hunt Club agreed to take the tournament late last fall when it was on the verge of being cancelled after the Bank of Montreal's five-year run as title sponsor ended. CN came on board, jacked up the purse and signed Kane as its ambassador.

"Last September we weren't even sure we were going to have this event -- CN came to the rescue," Desrosiers said. "We've had terrific support from the London Hunt Club and from the city."

CN CANADIAN WOMEN'S OPEN GOLF

Tickets

Available at the John Labatt Centre box office, Golftown, London's three city courses (Thames Valley, River Road and Fanshawe), or by calling 1-866-571-5742

The Kim File

Born: South Korea

Rookie year: 2004

Career victories: The 2005 U.S. Open; she holed a wedge on the final hole from a greenside bunker to become the 14th player in LPGA Tour history to make the U.S. Open her first career win

Career low round: 65

Career earnings: $724,903 US


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