London throws dandy bash

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The LPGA Tour and the Royal Canadian Golf Association found out in four record-shattering days what London already knew -- this is a major-league city.

A tournament record single-day crowd of 16,500 spectators came to the London Hunt and Country Club yesterday, swelling the four-day attendance to the CN Canadian Women's Open to 61,000 -- a record that had stood since the tournament began in 1973.

Yesterday, New York's Cristie Kerr -- with a seven-under 65 -- came out of the pack and made up eight shots on third-round leader Angela Stanford of Saginaw, Texas, to win Canada's national women's open tournament.

"The players are thrilled," RCGA tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said. "I would put us against any event on the LPGA Tour right now on how we run the event, the look and the feel."

The previous highest attendance of 60,000 was in Vancouver in 2003.

When London stepped to the tee blocks last November to help the RCGA and new title sponsor Canadian National Railway rescue the women's national open from the falling off the LPGA schedule, there never was a doubt at the Hunt Club they could run a major league event.

Tournament co-chairs Doug Alexander and Susan Holliday knew -- like London did -- they would deliver in the time of the RCGA's greatest need.

"London has been recognized as a sports destination, but when you see coverage in papers from Korea to Japan to Australia and coast-to-coast in the U.S. and Canada we're on the international map," they said.

Nothing has disappointed them or changed their mind. They'd love to do it again and club president Lindsey Elwood is already on record saying he supports the tournament returning to London as soon as possible.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best has been at the tournament every day.

"Unbelievable," she said. "I love it and it's so good for London."

The players loved the golf course, calling it one of the best they play on the LPGA Tour. Again, London already knew that.

From the first day a week ago today, when the players began to arrive from the British Open in England and from across Canada and the United States, there was a buzz -- a major league feel -- around the Hunt Club and it intensified every day.

The crowds grew every day -- 12,500 on Thursday, a record. There were 13,500 on Friday, another record. There were 14,500 on Saturday, another record. Then 16,500 yesterday.

Each day, the club had to find additional parking to accommodate the flood of golf fans who came to see some of the best the LPGA had to offer -- Natalie Gulbis, Lorie Kane, Meena Lee, Se Ri Park, Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome among them.

"We set out to to make this a great week for the players, the spectators, the sponsors and the volunteers," Alexander said. "We hope to have exceeded their expectations."

Van Kesteren said it was a bit premature for the RCGA to say they would come back to London.

"We'll talk to CN and see what they want to do," he said. "Certainly, we would love to come back if all the chips fell that way."


Videos

Photos