LPGA Canadian Players
I take a particular enjoyment in tracking the origins of LPGA players. Always a world map fanatic, familiarizing myself with the early stories of present-day tour players in their home countries tells me that the LPGA is more talent-laden, prestigious and robust in terms of schedule than ever before. As a fan of women’s participation in the game worldwide, I’ve seen the most unlikely countries emerge as new golf centers, but sometimes that causes us to neglect some of the talent at home, or very nearby.
Maybe someday, someone will write a doctoral dissertation explaining why northern countries with short warm seasons still keep coming with the golfers, but they do. Through the years, we’ve had some great guests down in the states from Canada, including Mike Weir, former Masters Champion. In the early days, the Canadian Open was a fixture on the men’s schedules, from the top players down.
There are Canadian women playing the various tours as well, and three are, as of this year, on the LPGA. I feel certain that most newcomers to the tours are nervous about getting started. When I think of the first tee “Willies” that most of us get in the amateur ranks, I can only imagine. Maude-Aimee Leblanc, from Sherbroke, Quebec, talked about it quite a lot, but launched her career with a perfectly respectable round.
Leblanc, at twenty three, is playing in the Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup, and with an opening round 72, she is well back, and tied with fellow Canadian Lorie Kane, a veteran on the tour. One of thirty three rookies being presented this year, Leblanc finished seventh in the qualifying tournament, and wouldn’t you just know it, she is yet another phenom to come out of the Purdue University juggernaut that won the 2010 NCAA National Championship in the states.
The geographical origins of presently touring Canadians are diverse. Lorie Kane hails from Prince Edward Island, and turned pro in 1996 after graduating from Acadia University in Nova Scotia. Since then, she’s won four times on tour and made some pretty good showings in majors. Winning the Michelob Light Classic, the New Albany Golf Classic, the Mizuno Classic and the LPGA Takefugi Classic, Kane has also been honored with the Heather Farr Award (’98) and the Powell Award (2000). She was an Order of Canada honoree in ’06.
Look all the way west, and get ready for Kirby Dreher, coming out of Fort St. John, British Columbia as a third year pro and a first year LPGA player. Starting at the age of eight, she was heavily recruited by Kent State, and held up her end of the bargain in four MAC Championships. She set a course record in the BC Amateur Championships, and played two seasons on the Futures Tour. Dreher will also play on the Canadian Women’s Tour.
Have you noticed a fun aspect of these locations? Just like famous movie stars come from everywhere, seldom hailing from Rodeo Drive, golfers come from every corner of the earth and from communities with names that most of us have never heard. That makes it all even better. Growing up on their home courses, coaching with the local pro and dreaming of participating in the larger golf world is a constant. As the LPGA continues to gather strength and visibility, those stories will guarantee a grass-roots aspect in the fabric of the game. And when the nations gather for the big ones, no matter where, count Canada in.