First-day crowd sets record

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

London sports fans once again proved they will back big-time sporting events.

A record crowd of 12,500 came to the London Hunt and Country Club yesterday to watch the first round of the CN Canadian Women's Open -- the largest first-day crowd in the history of the tournament, which began in 1973.

The previous best first-day crowd was 11,000 last year in Halifax, and 10,000 came out for the first round in Vancouver in 2003.

"It exceeded my expectations," said Doug Alexander, the Hunt Club member who brought the tournament to the club. "Speaking to spectators out there, they were having a blast. We're delighted. It's fantastic for a first day. We had spectators here at 6 o'clock (in the morning). There were more people on the grounds than we planned for but we'll make adjustments. That includes parking and concessions."

Yesterday, the parking lots on the course were almost filled, prompting organizers to find more parking. "We've made arrangements with St. Thomas Aquinas (secondary school). We always had expectations we would need an overflow lot."

The large crowds also caught the attention of some star players. "It's great," said Canadian Lorie Kane, who had a gallery of anywhere from 600 to 1,000 depending where she was on the course. "I love playing in front of crowds. I'm really impressed with the number of people out here for a Thursday morning. I just hope they stay around to watch the rest of the girls. I'm trying to use the crowd as a boost for me too. We're in the entertainment business and it's fun to play in front of people that are as excited as these folks are."

Cristie Kerr said she feels like she's playing in a major. "The crowds . . . I was incredibly surprised. I hadn't played in Canada for a couple of years but I think this place has the best crowds. And with the purse, it really feels like a very, very high calibre tournament."


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