Women's Open rises from the ashes

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Doug Alexander and Susan Holliday are like expectant parents waiting for their baby to arrive.

Their baby -- the CN Canadian Women's Open at London Hunt and Country Club -- is due in slightly more than a week.

Players begin arriving in London next Saturday for practice rounds the next day.

"I must admit when you start seeing the bleachers, tents and skyboxes, reality hits that this tournament has arrived," said Alexander, a Hunt Club director and co-chairperson of the tournament with Holliday.

"It's here."

Last October, it not only appeared the championship was not coming to London, but that it was about to be scrubbed.

The Royal Canadian Golf Association was struggling to find a title sponsor to replace BMO Financial Group, which bowed out after five years, feeling they had given enough time and money to market their then new brand name.

From the ashes emerged Canadian National Railway, which signed a three-year deal and upped the purse to $1.7 million, and the Hunt Club offered its wonderful, modernized facility.

With such big names as Juli Inkster, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, long-hitting Brittany Lincicome and Se Ri Pak as well as a great venue and a well-heeled sponsor, the championship appears to be rock solid.

The official tournament week begins Aug. 7, with a pro-am in the morning followed by a qualifying round for 50 players seeking the final four spots in the LPGA tournament. Following practice rounds on Aug. 8 for all players, another pro-am is slated -- this one featuring the top 50 LPGA players entered.

The 72-hole tournament begins Aug. 10.

The sounds of hammers and construction crews created a buzz yesterday at the Hunt Club. John Gaskin, site manager for the RCGA, said since July 17 three different companies have been erecting skyboxes, tents, corporate suites and bleachers.

The lawn in front of the clubhouse was transformed yesterday into the media centre.

The ninth and 18th greens are already ringed by private boxes and public bleachers.

"Weather has not caused too many problems,'' Gaskin said. "The only time it did was Tuesday, when there was lightning.''

Gaskin estimates about 9,000 metres of cable will be installed along with 2,250 square metres of tenting, 800 metres of white picket fencing and 12,000 metres of rope for spectator control.

For the spectators, there will be 10 electronic leaderboards and 80 portable washroom units.

As the crews tidy up, the players begin to arrive.

Alexander expects about 80 to 90 LPGA players from the U.S. not at the British Open will start to arrive in London next weekend. He said about 60 to 70 competing at the British Open will fly to Detroit or Toronto the following day. Tournament officials and volunteers will greet them and drive them to London.

The Hunt Club will close to members next Saturday at 3 p.m.

"We've been waiting for this for 14 months," Alexander said. "We're both nervous and excited. We've done all the pre-planning we can and the show will go on.''

Club superintendent Bob Pattinson has been following guidelines set by LPGA Tour officials. The rough is not only four inches long -- it's lush. The greens will be cut down beginning next week to make them faster.

The only serious glitch for Pattinson came this week when heavy rainstorms washed out 46 sand traps.

If that happens during the tournament, other area clubs have promised to provide additional staff from their grounds crews.


Videos

Photos