Manulife Financial LPGA Classic preview: Norman, Oklahoma, Canada
By Vince Robitaille
GolfWRX Staff Writer
First year events are, quite obviously, new beginnings, chances to explore new landscapes and, in certain specific instances, opportunities to reflect upon a particular facet of our game’s state. Having previously taken the time to inspect the future of the American contingent, the upmost observable stranglehold of South Korea on women’s golf as well as a few European soon-to-be stars along the way, I’ve come to realize, as the LPGA Tour heads north to Canada this weekend, that I’ve never stopped to gaze at things back home.
Neverminding the inevitable argument regarding how Yours Truly can’t really call Canada home anymore, at least since a certain conservative premier has been handed the reins and has proceeded to bring us back about 60 years – at least, in terms of Canadian politics as debates on abortion, same-sex marriage and censorship had long been settled around here – our girls are starting to shake things up a bit.
Long gone are the days of Lorie Kane, despite what most writers reaching for a story might try to argue. Arguably, her two top-30 finishes this season, both resulting, on her own account, from a new workout regimen and hard work under the tutelage of countryman Sean Foley, attest that a few good results can still be squeezed out of the veteran of 16 years. Nonetheless, expecting a sudden stellar performance enabling her to tear up the field and claim a fifth career triumph – a proverbial swan song – would be rather farfetched. The torch has been passed… and with great faith in her successors. The motive for that optimism is sensibly simple: with numerous youthful prospects blossoming, in recent years, amongst some of the NCAA’s most storied programs – the Maude-Aimée Leblanc’s and Jennifer Kirby’s quickly becoming household names in women’s golf – snow’s melting and spring’s coming – but not That Spring.
While Leblanc’s physical attributes that make her a prime example of the prototypical New Millennium’s female golfer – much like Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Brittany Lincicome before her – and Kirby’s pragmatic game that led her through her astounding amateur career, are reason enough to be hopeful, if the former can shake her habit of shooting one disastrous round per event, and the latter can regain her 2009-2010 form, Yours Truly‘s very own enthusiasm lies in a plausible pipeline.
Véronique Drouin-Luttrell’s career as a player has been over for a few years now, but her impact on golf in the Great White North could prove greater than she could have ever imagined. Despite Golf Canada’s ever-expanding efforts and the new infrastructures that pop up here and there across the country, if one’s tempted by the idea of building a life around our grand sport, there’s but one option: pack up your bucket and head South.
Doing so, though, spawns a tremendous need of funds or a golden ticket, namely a NCAA Div. 1 scholarship. Here’s where Drouin-Luttrell might just become Canada’s greatest asset as head coach of the University of Oklahoma. In only her second season at the helm of the Sonners, after a three-year tenure as assistant of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, the Quebecer’s tremendous results netted her the BIG XII Coach of the Year honor. This year, her sound recruiting and subsequent work produced a NCAA National Champion in the person of Chirapat Jao-Javanil. Drouin-Luttrell’s paramount achievement might reside in Anne-Catherine Tanguay’s initial success in Norman. The sophomore reeled in her first collegiate win last October on top of finishing within the top-10 in 27 percent of her starts. Clinching a few more Ws and making deeper runs into both the British and U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, could establish her as the last member of Canadian’s golf troika.
With other Canadian recruits to follow in Tanguay’s footsteps, I guess that I’ll have to become a Sooners fan. O Canada, Boomer Sooner, Red & White, Crimson & Cream, it all makes sense somehow.