Open sets goal of breaking even

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Record crowds are expected, but with a $5 million to $6 million operating budget, this week's Canadian Women's Open might only break even.

"It's designed to break even, but if it turns a profit, the money will go to charity," said Rick Desrochers, the chief financial officer for the Royal Canadian Golf Association.

Ticket sales have already surpassed last year's total of 53,000.

Desrochers and RCGA executive director Stephen Ross outlined the financial dilemma yesterday, while outlining plans to try to build the LPGA Tour stop into a lucrative event in future years.

As for the Hunt Club, Desrochers said it could make a profit.

"We rent it for a small amount of cash," he said. "The Hunt Club is not hosting this event to generate revenue for themselves. Theirs is a very healthy club (financially) and they wanted to do this to do something for golf in Canada."

Ross, a native of Blenheim, said the RCGA's goal is to expand the women's open now that the LPGA Tour has some young marketable stars such as Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and established stars such as Annika Sorenstam.

He said the tour is growing quickly in popularity worldwide along with television ratings and revenues.

The men's Canadian Open has a $15-million budget. Ross can see the day when the women's budget is similar.

Another topic concerning the RCGA is player development. With stars such as Lorie Kane and Dawn Coe-Jones in the twilight of their careers, there appear to be no young Canadians ready to pick up the torch. While Coe-Jones and Kane are into their 40s, Canada's best young players are about 25 or even younger.

"We've got to fix that," Ross said. "We've got a high-performance training centre and national teams. We've got a challenge and we accept that challenge."

Ross hinted Canadians should be patient, saying there are 400 amateur players attending NCAA schools on golf scholarships, Canadian universities are starting golf programs and the CN Canadian Tour will help develop some of the young players.

Others will develop on the Futures Tour.

"Amateur players are now being challenged by better competition. That's what we're trying to create . . . competition that is higher than it has ever been in Canada."


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