Tour lure trumps Open

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

The future of women's golf in this country will be on display this week at the CN Canadian Women's Open at Priddis Greens near Calgary.

And it does look like a bright future with the likes of Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., Barrie's Stephanie Sherlock and Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., among others.

All of Canada's rising stars won't be in Calgary, however. Three will be in Albany, N.Y., hoping the future becomes the present on the Futures, if that makes sense.

The three Canadians closest to obtaining status on the LPGA Tour next year through the Duramed Futures Tour money list cannot be at their national open because they need to be in Albany for the ILoveNY tournament, the season-ending event for the main development circuit of the LPGA.

It's a goofy scheduling glitch that keeps them away from Priddis Greens, but thew players look at it philosophically, saying that ending the Futures Tour season on a high note should ensure many appearances to come in Canada.

"I'd love to be there, but I guess to give up one tournament to, hopefully, play in a whole bunch more in years to come is worth it," said Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., a two-time winner on the Futures Tour this year.

Three-time Canadian amateur champion Lisa Meldrum of Montreal agrees.

"I'm trying to make it out (on the LPGA Tour) full-time and not just play one week of the year," she said. "So, I think it's important for me to be in Albany, but it is disappointing to not have the chance to play (in Canada)."

It's been a banner year on the Futures Tour for Canadians, who hold down three spots in the top 15 on the money list, a group that earns some plum advantages.

Canadians have recorded four wins in a rather unique way. A week ago, Richdale won in a rare Monday finish at the Turkey Hill Classic in Harrisburg, Pa., a week after Meldrum was victorious at the Impact Classic in Richmond, Va.. But that wasn't the only double dip for Canadians in 2009.

In April, Richdale was on the front end of back-to-back wins when she won the Louisiana Pelican Classic, followed immediately by a victory at the Historic Brownsville Open in Texas by veteran Angela Buzminski of Oshawa.

Richdale, 25, is fourth on the Futures Tour money list, a position that will earn her a full-time LPGA card next year. Buzminski, 38, could get her full-time card if she moves up one spot from sixth, which will require a stellar finish in Albany.

Meanwhile, Meldrum, 27, is 15th, a position that would earn her a direct ticket to the final stage of LPGA qualifying school, but she's hoping to vault into the top 10, which would earn her conditional status on tour. No matter what happens, she will attend Q-school.

Richdale got her taste of LPGA competition for this year on the weekend at the Safeway Classic in Oregon, where she played in yesterday's final round. Richdale is a former part-time employee of Safeway, a chain that also has employed her mom for nearly 25 years.

Now, it's back across the country to Albany for Richdale and her parents.

"They make me nervous," Richdale said. "I tried to tell them: 'I don't want you guys to come out unless I get my card,' and they were: 'No, we're going to book our tickets.' So, I'm glad I won last week (in Harrisburg). Now, they're coming for a reason."

It's a good reason for Canadians to keep their eyes on both Calgary and Albany this week.

Big Easy in Big Smoke

Ernie Els and J.J. Henry are Callaway's guests at the Golf Town Invitational being played at Aurora's Magna Golf Club today.

HUTCHGOLF@NETZERO.COM


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