COQUITLAM, B.C. – Lorie Kane is not ready to relinquish her role as the torchbearer of Canadian women’s golf.
In other words, young Canadians taking part in this year’s CN Canadian Women’s Open need not apply.
“I’m not letting go of the baton,” said Kane after taking part in the tournament’s pro-am Wednesday. “I’m going to make a hell of an anchor — and I’m not letting go.”
The 47-year-old Charlottetown native will lead a large Canadian contingent in a star-studded tournament that features 48 of the world’s top 50 golfers. Kane, a longtime promoter of the women’s game in Canada, has a chance to re-affirm her status with a milestone effort here.
She needs just one more top-10 finish for 100 in her LPGA career. Sounding content with her accomplishments thus far, she still expressed high hopes for a strong result on home soil.
“Ninety-nine’s not a bad number,” she said. “(Wayne) Gretzky was 99 for a long time (and) had a little bit of success.
“I don’t want my next one to just be a top-10. My goal is to get in the winner’s circle, and that’s what I’m striving to do.”
It won’t be easy. No Canadian has won this tournament since 1973, when Jocelyn Bourassa prevailed over American Sandra Haynie in a playoff.
Kane’s best result in her national open was a tie for third in 2001 at Angus Glen in Markham, Ont. Last year, she finished in a tie for 63rd.
Most of the competitors in that event, including defending champion Brittany Lincicome and 2010 champ Michelle Wie, who will be in Kane’s group in Thursday’s first round, have returned. The field also includes world No. 1 Yani Tseng and 2009 victor Suzann Pettersen.
Lincicome has a decent chance to repeat after placing second last week in Portland, while Wie has finished second and first, respectively, in this tournament the past two years.
In other words, the event is Canadian in name only. It, like the LPGA Tour itself, is now a distinctly global competition.
But Kane hopes the chance to play in Canada will prove advantageous.
“Any opportunity that we get to come home and play is huge,” said Kane. “I definitely want to take advantage of the Canadian fans, the support I get from CN, to put the best game I can forward. Having said that, (Thursday) is another day.”
Golfers were at a loss to explain what will be the key to winning on the Vancouver Golf Club’s par-72 layout. Long by LPGA standards at 6,681 yards, the course has two distinctly different nines. The front is hilly and the back is flat.
“Like most weeks, it’s going to come down to putting and positioning yourself on the green,” said Kane. “When we played here in ’91, the nines were reversed. It’s my feeling that the back nine is, maybe, the more scoreable nine based on the green. The complexes aren’t as severely sloped.”
Paula Creamer said continued warm weather will make the greens extremely firm and “funny at times” by Sunday.
“What it takes to win on this course is so hard to say,” added Pettersen.
The Canadian contingent includes 14-year-old Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., who will become the tournament’s youngest ever competitor.
Henderson, a member of Golf Canada’s development squad, gained entry by winning a CN Canadian Women’s Tour event earlier this year in Beloeil, Que. In doing so, she became the youngest ever golfer — male or female — to win a professional tournament, but had to decline the prize money because she is still an amateur.
Henderson is among Canadian women’s national and development squad players taking part. The youngsters are hoping they can handle the mental challenge of playing against the world’s best.
“I think our game is really close to being on par with the Tour girls,” said Jisoo Keel, 16, of Coquitlam, B.C., who finished in a tie for 66th in 2011, but won a Canadian tour event in Richmond, B.C., this year.
“The biggest difference, I think, is their experience with pro tournaments and the media and how they handle the pressure.”