Stars promise show at Priddis

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Don't let the long hair and pink accessories fool you.

These girls can play golf.

Whether it's booming drives off the tee-box at Priddis Greens or cozying a chip up close to the pin, the 156 LPGA Tour stars making up the field for the 2009 CN Canadian Women's Open have got game that's par and, in some cases, under-par for the course.

And it's not every day Calgarians get a first-hand opportunity to take in such a talented group of athletes in an event that'll bring an estimated $15 million into the city's economy.

"It's a chance to give Calgarians something they don't normally see on a regular basis," said Priddis Greens GM Ron Hood of bringing back the LPGA Tour event 10 years after it debuted at the country club 25 km southwest of Calgary.

"Calgarians don't get to see a lot of high-calibre golf around here, and there are a lot of golfers in the area. I've been told Alberta has the highest percentage of golfers.

"We're hoping to give them a good show," Hood added. "Nothing would be greater than to have it come down to the last putt."

Regardless, what Priddis Greens has set up is a world-class event -- thanks largely to the backing of the tourney's title sponsor, CN.

A spectators' village, green-side bleachers and bars lining fairways have turned the country club into the place to be over the next four days. The weather appears to be favourable, as well, unlike 10 years ago when cold crept into the mix during the du Maurier Classic at Priddis Greens.

"These types of events don't come around often," Hood said. "In some respects, it's like the Olympics -- cities don't get it two times, so mark it on your calendar, even if it's just for one day.

"The women may not hit it as far as the guys do, but they're just as good."

Take, for instance, Michelle Wie.

With all the hype following her over the last half-dozen years, the Hawaiian is showing signs of breaking out.

With the attention she garners, Wie is the Tiger Woods of the LPGA, even if she has yet to win. At 19 years old, it's just a matter of time.

Wie is also among tour stars who draw the attention of fans because of their good looks. But Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis -- just to name a few -- are just as eye-catching with the clubs, making them instant standouts for fans here at Priddis.

And there's many more talents to keep an eye on when the tournament tees up today at 7:20 a.m., with Hamilton's Alena Sharp in the first of 52 threesomes.

After three dominating seasons, Lorena Ochoa is the No. 1-ranked player in the world. And Cristie Kerr is tops on the money list this year.

"We've got the strongest field of the year here, and that's a big buzz," said Canadian veteran Lorie Kane, who tees off at 12:20 p.m. with Pressel and defending champion Katherine Hull.

Wie follows at 12:30 p.m., while Kerr, wily veteran Juli Inkster and fan-favourite Christina Kim make up a star-studded group at 12:40 p.m.

"And it should be a big buzz because the best players in the world are here," Kane added. "And we're showcasing some of the best women's golf you'll ever see."

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA

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2009 LPGA TOUR OFFICIAL MONEY LIST

1. Cristie Kerr $1,327,079

2. Jiyai Shin $1,181,331

3. Ai Miyazato $1,103,791

4. In-Kyung Kim $1,062,286

5. Yani Tseng $918,431

6. Paula Creamer $898,469

7. Eun-Hee Ji $884,426

8. S. Pettersen $882,310

9. Lorena Ochoa $809,680

10. Karrie Webb $753,878

11. Angela Stanford $706,094

12. Song-Hee Kim $690,544

13. Lindsey Wright $653,782

14. K. McPherson $637,901

15. Na Yeon Choi $621,574

16. B, Lincicome $588,097

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MORGAN PRESSEL

Her claim of the '07 Kraft Nabisco Championship made her the youngest woman to win a major. She sank the clinching putt at the Solheim Cup.

NATALIE GULBIS

The tour's sex symbol can play golf. She won the '07 Evian Masters and has $4 million in career winnings. Gulbis also played in the Solheim Cup.

CATRIONA MATTHEW

The 15-year LPGA veteran ended a long drought when she won the British Women's Open last month. The Scot's a five-time Solheim Cup member.

MEENA LEE

During her first year on tour, she was crowned the '05 BMO Financial Group Canadian Women's Open champion. Lee hasn't won since 'O6.

CHRISTINA KIM

The spirited American of the winning Solheim Cup team three weeks ago has two LPGA victories, but none since '05. Her personality draws a crowd.

SE RI PAK

Few LPGA stars have more victories than Pak's 24. The 12-year tour veteran is fifth on the all-time money list with $10 million and change.

VICKY HURST

Hailed as the next Wie, the big bomber won five Duramed Futures events last year, even though she missed a tourney to attend her high-school grad.

BRITTANY LANG

The Solheim Cup competitor is still searching for her first LPGA win despite finishing second twice last year. Lang has 20 Top-10 finishes.

LAURA DAVIES

The veteran has 20 LPGA titles to her name during a 25-year career. The English golfer is the only woman to appear in all 11 Solheim Cups.

JULI INKSTER

Fourth on the all-time money list with $12.6 million, the wily 31-year tour vet has 31 wins, and she captained the U.S. to the '09 Solheim Cup victory.

A.J. EATHORNE

The Calgarian has waited 10 years to get back to Priddis after withdrawing from the '99 du Maurier Classic. She hasn't played an LPGA event this year.

JESSICA SHEPLEY

One of several young Canuck talents, the Ontario native earned her LPGA card this year, but this will be her first event. She played in the '06 tourney.

ALENA SHARP

Considered Canada's best bet to win the '09 Canadian Women's Open, the Hamilton native has two Top-10 finishes in four LPGA seasons.

M.J. HUR

Coming to Priddis Greens hot after winning the Safeway Classic in Oregon last week, the young South Korean has played in only nine tour events.

STACY LEWIS

The former NCAA champion was tops at LPGA qualifying school this year. As an amateur, she finished in third spot at the 2008 U.S. Open.

LORIE KANE

Canada's face of women's golf, the native of PEI has struggled the last few seasons, but she boasts the experience of 14 previous host tourneys.


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