Originally created 05/13/02

Course closed for final touches



Steve Storm carried fencing from a golf cart to the practice putting green at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club Sunday.

As last-minute preparations took place for the second 72-hole Asahi Ryokuken International Championship, which begins Thursday, even the tournament director lent a hand.

"It's good to get out of the office and get some exercise," Storm said.

Maintenance workers got plenty of exercise mowing the rough and using weedeaters around the course. Mount Vintage was even showing off its stripes, a result of the course's overseeding with rye grass.

Spectator stands, skyboxes, merchandise tents and electronic scoreboards were all in place. The only thing missing was golfers.

The entire course, including the practice putting green, chipping green and driving range, was closed Sunday to the 144-player field - which includes Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr and Laura Davies.

"Because all of our employee resources are directed at getting set up and getting ready for the tournament, we really aren't in a position to serve anyone," said Brian Thelen, head golf professional and club manager at Mount Vintage. "It's a little bit difficult, because players want to come out and walk the golf course and practice. And we can't focus on what we need to do from a preparation standpoint."

Golfers will be allowed to use the Edgefield County facility today.

"We'll get the majority of players in here (today) and Tuesday," Storm said. "I would think that the players who didn't play here last year would like to be here (today) so they could have a couple of practice rounds on the course."

One of the tournament's fan favorites from last year pulled out of this year's event. Laura Diaz, who played in the Aerus Electrolux USA Championship on Sunday and is fourth on the current LPGA money list, backed out after originally committing.

"I don't know why (she dropped out)," Storm said.

Today's activities begin with a tournament qualifier at the course at 8 a.m. Two of the more notable golfers vying for the final two spots in the $1.25 million Asahi Ryokuken International Championship include Augusta amateur Laura Coble and 11-year-old amateur Carmen Bandea.

Bandea, of Atlanta, is trying to become the youngest golfer ever to participate in an LPGA event.

What: The second annual Asahi Ryokuken International Championship

Where: Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club, North Augusta

When: Thursday-Sunday

Television: The Golf Channel, 1-3:30 p.m. (first two rounds) and 2-4:30 p.m. (final two rounds). Replays Thursday-Sunday 11 p.m.-1 a.m.

Defending champion: Tina Fischer ($180,000, 10-under-par 206)

Purse: $1.25 million ($180,000 first place)

Tickets: $60 for a week pass or $25 per day Wednesday through Sunday; children 14 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult.

Parking: On-site, $5 per day

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.