Putt-putt start for LPGA rookies

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

The conversation with Montreal’s Lisa Meldrum shifted smoothly from golf into her hometown Habs’ unlikely run for the Stanley Cup, a natural topic for a couple of Canadians at this time of year.

As hockey hits its final peak of the year, golf usually starts revving up. But that hasn’t been the case for Meldrum and Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., whose arrivals doubled the number of Canadian players on the LPGA Tour this season.

Both missed the cut at the just-completed Bell Micro LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala., in what has been a sporadic start for the two rookies, each of whom has only taken part in three tournaments thus far, thanks to a schedule with few tournaments that puts them behind more established players for entry into fields.

While Meldrum and Richdale have increased the number of players on tour, it hasn’t been a vintage season for Canadians to this point, with Hamilton’s Alena Sharp leading the way in 59th spot on the money list last week, followed by Richdale in 113th. Meldrum and veteran Lorie Kane have yet to take home a paycheque.

Both rookies are coming off outstanding seasons on the Duramed Futures Tour, where Meldrum won once in 2009 and finished seventh at qualifying school to earn her card.

Richdale had a couple of Futures Tour victories and bypassed Q-School after finishing fourth on the money list.

“The last two tournaments have gone quite well,” said Meldrum, a three-time Canadian amateur champion.

“I just really haven’t been able to score and put things together. You put a lot of pressure on your ball-striking if you’re not making any putts.”

Richdale says she isn’t panicking either.

“I’m not really worried about it,” she said. “It’s not the start I wanted, but we’re only three tournaments into the year.”

Neither will play again until June, but both will try U.S. Women’s Open qualifying in the next two weeks. Once they get into next month, the number of events they play in is expected to increase and each expects they will finish the season with about 14 events played.

By comparison, Kane played 30 events in her first full season on tour in 1997, while Sharp took part in 23 events her first year in 2006. To their credit, both Meldrum and Richdale aren’t using the lack of action as an excuse, simply saying they will have to make it count when the events come more regularly.

“I already knew that some of the events were limited field, but I get into every full field event so it’s not bad,” Richdale said.

Meldrum added she is looking forward to next month in order to put things together and establish momentum.

“It’s challenging,” she said. “(Last) week, I hit it really well and it would be nice to just be working on my putting for a couple of days and then get right back into it (this) week.

“Unfortunately, I now have three weeks off. It will be nice to try and get a little bit of rhythm going and just keep playing.”

The short game

Jim Rutledge of Victoria has received an exemption into the Montreal Championship, an inaugural Champions Tour event to be played in July. Rutledge, you may recall, became the second-oldest rookie to play on the PGA Tour in history a couple of years ago when he made it through the Nationwide Tour money list … Karl Morris, who specializes in the mental aspect of golf and has worked with the likes of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, is hosting seminars in the Toronto area on Tuesday at Lionhead in Mississauga and Wednesday at Deer Creek near Ajax. For more information, visit www.goosebumpperformance.com.


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