For the past two summers, a group of world travelers have spent a week in London and come away impressed with the hospitality and beauty of the area.

The Duramed FUTURES Tour golf tournament at Crooked Creek has been a great opportunity to showcase our little corner of the world to professional golfers and their families.

They have liked what they have seen.

Winner Mina Harigae, who hails from Monterey, Calif., and attended Duke University, she said had “good vibes here because it's so pretty and the people are awesome. I went to a family’s house and we played basketball and a game called ‘cornhole’ and I got to pet and feed their horses. I like it here in the Bluegrass State.”

The lady golfers get up close and personal with the people of Laurel County because many spend the week staying in the homes of host families. They create a bond that endures long after the last putt is made on Sunday.

The golfers who don’t stay with host families spend the week at area motels. They pay for more than 600 rooms during the week.

They eat at area restaurants. Go to the movies. Spend time at Walmart. Drive down to the lake or Cumberland Falls. They take in all we have to offer, and they like what they see and experience.

That says a lot coming from young professional women who hail from some of the prettiest places in the USA, Japan and South Korea.

The press release from the Duramed Tour about Harigae’s thrilling victory Sunday said it all:

“But Harigae, who was ‘all chilled out’ after taking off last week and flying home to California to go hiking because she felt herself getting burned out, sat in a golf cart this afternoon following the awards ceremony. She scanned the rolling hills surrounding the 6,360-yard course with scenic elevation changes and just enough creeks and ponds to keep a golfer humble. And she finally flashed a relaxed smile.

‘I can't believe I just won this tournament,’ she said. ‘I was on a cliff last week hiking in Big Sur, and now here I am in London, Kentucky.’”

I served as an official scorer for a trio of golfers on Friday evening. One of the golfers was from Pittsburgh, Pa. Another was from Longview, Wash., and the third was from Chicago.

During slow moments in the six-hour round, I spoke with them about the tournament, the golf course and their impressions of London.

All were impressed with the beauty and serenity of the area. I guess it’s quite a change from the hustle and bustle of their metropolitan homes. They also said Crooked Creek was one of the nicest courses they play on during their long summer season.

One lady asked be about small variety of restaurants. She was staying at the Hampton Inn at Exit 38 and had eaten at all the restaurants nearby. I agreed with her that our selection of eateries wasn’t as good as larger cities, but it was improving. I encouraged her and her mother, who was caddying, to check out the restaurants on Exit 41.

Not only does the Duramed Tour have an economic impact on our area, but a cultural one as well. We may never know when a relationship forged during the week, or a positive impression of the area, may lead to one of these professionals to move to the area or locate a business here.

At the very least, it produces great word-of-mouth advertising for London and Laurel County that gets spread all over the country. The tour’s stop this week is in Richmond, Va. We can’t purchase this type of effective advertising.

That’s why the Duramed stop in London deserves and needs greater financial support from the community. Organizers struggle each year to come up with the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to bring the tournament here. It’s one of the smallest stops on the tour, but as many of the golfers proclaim, it’s one of the best.

Many thanks to the sponsors and the volunteers who made the 2009 Duramed in London such a great success.

Without it, about 160 professional women from across the globe would not have such a favorable impression of London, Kentucky.

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