Coquitlam golf course teed up for LPGA's CP Women's Open

The Canadian Pacific Women's Open runs through Aug. 23 at the Vancouver Golf Club on Austin Avenue in Coquitlam.

Some of the world's top golfers are teeing it up at the Vancouver Golf Club this week for the Canadian Pacific Women's Open — and anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 spectators will be coming to Coquitlam to watch them.

There are 156 players in the field, about a third of whom, hailing from some 25 countries, are billeting with local families.

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New Zealand's Lydia Ko, who as a 15-year-old rocketed to international fame after winning the event in 2012 at the Coquitlam course, will be competing along with Ontario's Brooke Henderson, a teenager who dominated sports headlines this week after winning the LPGA Portland Classic on Sunday, the first Canadian to win an LPGA event since 2001.

And that kind of competition means even more eyes will be on this week's events in Coquitlam.

"All of the top 10 golfers are here and 96 of the top 100 golfers," said tournament co-chair Byron Cook. "Golf Canada said it's the strongest field of any of their tournaments."

CP Women's Open golf bags

Cook said organizers had anticipated being asked to host the globally televised event again in 2017 or 2018 but Golf Canada approached VGC in March 2014 to see about hosting this year. The club's members supported the idea and planning began in earnest.

About three quarters of the 2012 organizing committee chairs returned to help this year, shepherding some 1,200 volunteers, stickhandling traffic and parking, and arranging player and spectator services.

Little work was needed on the course itself to be ready for the tournament, other than letting the rough grow longer to make it more challenging for the world-class players. And Metro Vancouver's stage 3 watering restrictions, which limit golf courses to minimal watering of greens and tee areas but not fairways, don't apply to VGC because it has its own wells and reservoir to keep the 175-acre course lush.

Cook and fellow co-chair Paul Batchelor negotiated with the Golf Channel to keep the competition running until 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday — instead of until 3 p.m. to accommodate viewers in eastern Canada — to encourage more spectators to come out.

"It's a big, big enhancement that we fought hard for, and we got the LPGA and the Golf Channel to agree to that," Cook said.

They're hoping the change will boost attendance from 2012's 75,000 to 100,000 this week, which not only shines an extra spotlight on the VGC but should also boost fundraising efforts.

The CP Women's Open's charity initiative for 2015 will benefit BC Children's Hospital's pediatric cardiology research program through several means.

CP has been matching online donations to BC Children's Hospital since April 1 and will continue to do so until Aug. 23.
It will also match funds raised through the 17th Green CP Fan Zone ticket upgrades (available on site and online); the $20 enhanced ticket gives fans better seating, giveaways, visits from LPGA players and more.

And in Birdies for Heart — also at the 17th hole — CP will commit $5,000 for every birdie during CP Women's Open tournament play (the initiative raised $320,000 last year).

CP Women's Open byron cook

Cook said fundraising for BC Children's Hospital — about $1.8 million was raised in 2012 — is the key reason they were keen to host the Women's Open again, particularly since it means members lose access to the course for nine days.

"Nobody likes giving up the course in prime time but that's where the charity part really comes in," he said — though getting a chance to show off the course to a global audience doesn't hurt either.

The event should be a boon for Coquitlam businesses as well.

David Munro, Coquitlam's manager of economic development, cited Golf Canada estimates that economic spin-offs from the Women's Open are in the $7-million range.

Several city departments, including tourism, parks and recreation, and engineering and public works, as well as Coquitlam RCMP, are helping make the event a success.

"To get it three years after 2012 means the Vancouver Golf Club and the city of Coquitlam and Golf Canada realized it was a very successful venture," Munro said. "Overall, we're very lucky to get this event again so soon."

Erin Davidson, executive director of the Austin Heights Business Improvement Association, said the group is providing promotional bags that include coupons for neighbourhood businesses to encourage more spin-off foot traffic.

"Any overflow into our business area is always a bonus," she added. "In Austin Heights, we really feel strongly that our restaurants and pubs are top notch… so we think we'd be a great destination for any foodies in the group."

Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce executive director Michael Hind said the Women's Open will help showcase this area on the world stage.

"The event is great for local business, bringing people to the Tri-Cities from all over the world. Local hotels are definitely seeing a windfall."

Hind added the tournament also boosts the local economy through contracts with Tri-City businesses.

Players were on the course all day Tuesday for practice rounds, followed by the championship pro-am on Wednesday. Competition runs on Thursday and Friday, after which the field gets cut to players in the top half for Saturday and Sunday, when golfers will be vying for the $2.25 million in prize money (the winner will receive a cheque for about $337,000).

Smiling, Cook said the tournament couldn't come at a better time.

"It's a combination of good weather, a good field, a Canadian star — the stars have aligned pretty well."

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Carpenter CP Women's Open BC Children's Hospital

A Coquitlam family hopes Tri-City residents will consider making a donation to BC Children’s Hospital as this week’s Canadian Pacific Women’s Open gets underway.

Money raised as part of the tournament's fundraising initiatives will be dedicated to the pediatric cardiology research program at BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) Heart Centre. Last year alone, BC Children’s cardiac surgeons performed 337 heart procedures, including 201 open heart surgeries.

In the first couple of years of her youngest daughter’s life, Coquitlam mother Tracey Carpenter heard from doctors time and time again that her child was allergic to dairy.

Her maternal instincts kept telling her otherwise. After pushing for further testing, Carpenter learned that her child, Avery, had a rare heart condition. She remembers how stunned she and her husband were when they heard the news.

“We were just numb,” Carpenter recalls of that day in 2009. “Her heart was the size of an adult man’s, and it was barely twitching. It shocked everyone in the room.”

Avery has a congenital heart defect called anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA), which results in a lack of oxygen to the heart. The condition affects one in 300,000 babies, and it has a mortality rate of 90% if not diagnosed within the first year of life. Avery was two-and-a-half years old.

On the afternoon of her diagnosis, Avery was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at BC Children’s Hospital in preparation for surgery the next day. She spent the next five weeks in hospital recovering, and her parents learned what their life ahead would be with a child with a cardiac condition.

For now, Avery is doing very well; she loves school, dance, music, digging in the garden, playing with her dog, and keeping up with her big sister, Chloe. She also loves her doctors at BC Children’s, who will monitor her progress until she is 18, including the medications she will take for the long term.

“Our journey has been hard – hard on us as individuals and really hard on us as a family,” says Carpenter. “It has been heartbreaking and tragic at times, and at others it is so beautiful and poignant. It has made us who we are.”

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