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Manulife Financial LPGA Classic preview: Norman, Oklahoma, Canada

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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.

Click here for more discussion in the “LPGA/Ladies golf talk” forum.

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GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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Ping Engineer Paul Wood explains how the G400 Max driver is so forgiving

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Paul Wood, VP of Engineering at Ping, joins our 19th Hole to discuss the new G400 Max driver, which the company calls the “straightest driver ever.” Also, listen for a special discount code on a new laser rangefinder.

Listen to this episode on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes.

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