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Golf event puts Stockbridge on world stage

By Michael Davis

When R.C. Wu climbed into the skybox on the 18th green at Eagle's Landing Country Club Friday, he was there to watch two Taiwanese nationals play a little golf. But he was also making some business connections.

Wu, 50, is the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. With a camera slung around his neck and a program in his hand with the names of his favorite women golfers circled in bold black ink, Wu exchanged business cards with Henry and Clayton economic and business developers.

He and other consulars and leaders in foreign industry were guests at the LPGA Chick-fil-A Charity Championship of a group of south metro Atlanta business boosters at Stockbridge's most famous golf game. Hosts included the Henry County Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the Henry County Development Authority and Metro South Inc., a six-county south metro economic development alliance.

"We have about six ladies playing in the United States, but we haven't got the championship," Wu said.

Taiwanese golfers Yu Ping Lin and Amy Hung, two of those six, made it in to the tournament and were on Wu's watch list Friday. He said in Taiwan, golf is a popular game and 80 golf courses dot the small but populous island.

Another LPGA member, Birdie Kim, is from South Korea.

"It's a pity we don't have more famous players," he said.

The LPGA event puts Stockbridge on the world stage for one week every year as thousands of visitors, golf fans, business leaders and politicians roam the periphery of Eagle's Landing Country Club's golf course whispering in hushed voices.

More than 80,000 visitors are expected to pass through at the week-long event, organizers said. Local networks, newspapers and cable sports stations cover the tournament, which is in its last year of lead sponsorship by Chick-fil-A. Cable sports channel ESPN2 is carrying portions of the event live for four days.

Henry County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Greg Hammonds said the yearly tournament gives the county a chance to show off a little and recruit more foreign investment.

The idea to invite foreign business leaders to the attend the tournament as guests of the business community was the brainchild of Henry County Development Authority Director Bob White and others at the Metro South Golf Charities board of directors.

Two years ago, the tournament had 25 foreign players, "and we were looking for a way to leverage that," White said.

From there, the Henry County Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor's Bureau sent invitations to consulars from around the world, and secured space for them in a tournament skybox.

Asked if he was enjoying the event Friday, Alvaro Cantillo, director of international business for Southern States LLC, a company that manufactures high voltage electrical switches and sells them all over the world, said simply, "I'm about to."