LPGA record in sight

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Organizers of the CN Canadian Women’s Open are aiming high.

They have a great golf course, a star-studded field and a US$2.25 million purse.

Now those running Canada’s only LPGA Tour event, which starts Thursday at Winnipeg’s St. Charles Country Club, want to set a tournament attendance record while they’re at it.

“We’re looking at between 15,000 and 18,000 (per day),” tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said Sunday in the media tent as final preparations took place around him. “Hopefully on the weekend, 20,000 would be great. We’re shooting for just around 70,000 for the week.

“If we break 70,000, we’d be up there among the top handful of (LPGA) events. If we break 70,000, that would be a record for us here.”

The record attendance for the Canadian Women’s Open is 68,950, which was set two years ago in Ottawa. Last year’s event in Calgary attracted 67,500 spectators.

Van Kesteren admitted they would need a good walkup crowd to hit 70,000, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

“Get the right weather and you get a good leaderboard, and hopefully a Canadian or two does well,” Van Kesteren said.

Forty-eight of the world’s top 50 players are registered to tee it up in the event.

Most of the players were scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg late Sunday night on an LPGA-chartered plane from Oregon, where the Safeway Classic wrapped up earlier in the day.

The players will hit the course bright and early on Monday morning for the first practice rounds of the week. The first official event, the Women’s Only Pro-Am, tees off at 12:30 p.m.

Japan’s Ai Miyazato won the Safeway Classic by two strokes on Sunday, reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the world ranking from Cristie Kerr.

It was Miyazato’s fifth victory of the year, and it propelled her to the top of the LPGA money list.

She was one of four players who could’ve moved into top spot in the world ranking, and that jockeying for position will continue in earnest on the shores of the Assiniboine River this week.

“We’re looking forward to the battle that these girls will have, and the golf course is in great shape,” Van Kesteren said. “We’ve had really good weather the last four or five days. The greens are starting to firm up really nice, which is what we wanted.

“Whenever you have hard greens they’ll obviously roll a lot faster. When they’re soft it’s like shooting darts. So it’s better when they bounce a little bit. It makes it more fun.”

Sunday’s scorching temperatures and big winds aided in making the course hard and fast, and it might make the rough a little easier to deal with — but not by much.

“The rough is growing up nice and thick,” Van Kesteren said. “We’re not going to touch the rough anymore. It’s done. We’ll let it grow and let the players deal with it. We’re in good shape.”


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