LPGA TOUR Mallon ready to defend in Canadian Women's Open
Many players had trouble getting into Canada because of heavy fog.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) -- Defending champion Meg Mallon was able to avoid the travel problems that have plagued the Canadian Women's Open.
"I made the veteran move of the week," Mallon said Wednesday. "I flew in yesterday. No problem. I got all my luggage."
Many players had trouble getting into the area Sunday night and Monday because of fog and low clouds at the airport, which has been forced to shut down its electronic navigation system because of runway construction.
Lots of problems
In addition to the travel woes, the Royal Canadian Golf Association is fighting sponsor and schedule problems. With Bank of Montreal pulling out as the title sponsor after five years, RCGA chief operating officer Rick Desrochers is scrambling to come up with financial backing -- about $2.5 million a year -- to save the event.
"With the absence of a title sponsor or a group of sponsors, it's too big of a bite for the nonprofit RCGA to take on," Desrochers said. "We were optimistic we'd have it resolved my now, but now it's become critical."
Bank of Montreal stepped up in 2001 after the du Maurier Classic -- a major championship for 22 years -- folded because of restrictions on tobacco promotions.
"This country should have a women's professional golf tournament," said Mallon, a three-time winner in Canada. "They're such fantastic golf fans. ... It's important for our tour to have a presence in Canada."
Stuck between a series of top events in the United States and the tour's European swing, the tournament that starts today at Glen Arbour has attracted only two of the top 30 players on the money list -- No. 13 Meena Lee and No. 17 Lorie Kane.
"I would rather look at it from the perspective that maybe not having a few of the top players here gives somebody else an opportunity to show exactly how good they are," said Kane, one of a record 26 Canadians in the field.
"We have a lot of young players here who have an opportunity to make this their first win. They are going to have to beat me to do it, though."
The Evian Masters starts Wednesday in France, a tight turnaround even in ideal travel conditions, and the Women's British Open -- the tournament that replaced the du Maurier as a major -- is the following week.
"In a perfect world we would be able go play every event," Canadian A.J. Eathorne said. "Those girls who really wanted to come to Canada are here."
With a number of players dropping out Monday and Tuesday, the tour increased the spots available in the Monday qualifier from the usual four to 11 and has cut the field from a planned 156 to 152.
Last year, Mallon followed her U.S. Women's Open victory with a four-stroke win at the Legends on the Niagara. She also won the final du Maurier in 2000 at Royal Ottawa and took the 2002 event at Summerlea near Montreal.
"I don't know why. Some magic happens when I cross the border," Mallon said. "I'm very comfortable playing here in Canada. ... I've enjoyed the venues they've picked over the years. I think they've been fantastic layouts."
Carved out of dense forest along scenic lakes northwest of downtown Halifax, the Graham Cooke-designed Glen Arbour course puts a premium on ball placement.
"Maybe the toughest thing here is that there's a lot of uphill and downhill lies," Kane said. "There's not a lot of flat going on here."
Kane is from neighboring Prince Edward Island.
"We're not just in Canada here. You're in Atlantic Canada," Kane said. "It's awesome. I've been looking forward to this for very long time."
She also took a lighthearted shot at the airport problem.
"I'm hoping the next time we'll be in PEI," Kane said. "I can't see why not. We don't get much fog. We have an airport. I think we can land some planes."