Observations from Cambridge

Not sure if you’d call it a moral dilemma or not, but I had to decide on Friday whether to continue to attend the Manulife LPGA Classic over the weekend, or attend to a number of previously postponed chores at the family cottage. I chose the latter, and thereby avoided the withering looks I receive from the Landlady (AKA Mrs. Deeks) any time I eschew duties for golf.

Fortunately, I had enjoyed the first two days at the Manulife, and I again salute all those who made it possible (as I’ve saluted annually since its inception.) And as I say annually, it’s a shame more people aren’t exposed to/choose to follow women’s golf. The competitors are generally friendlier and more approachable than their male counterparts on the PGA Tour, and man, do they hit the ball a long way!

On Friday, I watched the threesome of Sandra Gal, Hee Young Park, and Dame Laura Davies tee off on the par 5, 9th hole. That threesome couldn’t look more different when standing together… Gal is tall and slender, Park short and unintimidating, and Davies tall and (I don’t mean this in a nasty way, because I’m a big fan of Her Ladyship) built like a yak. All three drives had different trajectories, and I would’ve sworn Davies’ drive would’ve been 50 yards further. But when I walked down to watch their second shots, there they were… all within six feet of each other, in the middle of the fairway. Even more impressive… it’s a 472-yard hole, and all three hit irons into the green.

Kudos to Alena Sharp, Sue Kim, Sara-Maude Juneau and Natalie Gleadall, our Canadian contingent who survived the cut; Gleadall had to play a qualifying round last Monday to get into the event, so an extra kudo for her.

I watched Canada’s new Sweetheart, Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, for a few holes, and participated in a media scrum with her on Thursday. Brooke just couldn’t quite get all cylinders firing and missed the cut by a shot. But honestly, if any of us faced the kind of scrutiny and expectation that she does, at age 17, it’d be a wonder that we could draw the club back, period. The way she handles being under that microscope is just awesome, however, and when she eventually gets admitted to the LPGA Tour as a full member, she will surely be one of the Tour’s most approachable and most glittering assets.

For those of you not aware, Brooke is not eligible for membership in the LPGA because of her age, even though she is a professional. The minimum is 18, although she is permitted to play in tournaments if she is invited by event sponsors. If she wins enough money through these ad hoc appearances this year, she will qualify for membership automatically, next year. If she doesn’t, she will have to attend the year-end Qualifying Tournament – the dreaded Q-School — and have a high-enough finish there to elevate to the Tour.

By making money in five of six LPGA events she’s played so far in 2015, she currently sits at roughly $185,000, which would put her in 32nd place on the Money List to date.
To automatically qualify, she needs to finish the season at 40th or better… and she has only a handful of events left to play and earn. I talked to her Dad on Friday… even he’s realistic enough to think that Brooke, and her older sister Brittany, will both be at Q-School in the Fall.

In spite of the quest for dollars, Brooke will take time off next month to join one of her idols, Lorie Kane, in playing for Canada in the first-ever Pan Am Games golf competition. This tournament takes place July 16-19 at Angus Glen’s south course. Brooke and Lorie could use your support!

Back to the Manulife… this year’s event was played at Whistle Bear Golf Club, a change of venue because the previous host course, Grey Silo on the other side of Kitchener, had a number of drawbacks – not least of which, it was just too darn easy. The thought was that Whistle Bear offered a better infrastructure for a big spectator event, and wouldn’t be a powder puff for the players, especially if the wind blew.

Well, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the wind only came up on Sunday afternoon. By then, the halfway cut of -4 was established as the lowest cut in LPGA history, and Suzann Pettersen’s winning score of 22 under was definitely in Grey Silo territory. Ah well, it still proved to be a better location in just about every way, and I can’t imagine that any players or spectators went away displeased.

Thanks to Manulife for sticking with this fine event.

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