TORONTO - There is no LPGA stop as difficult to win this season as the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
With 97 of the top 100 players on the money list in the field, the eventual champion will have beaten the best women’s golf has to offer.
Each summer when our national men’s Open arrives the talk is about who’s not coming. That won’t be the case next week at Hillsdale Golf and Country Club in Mirabel, Que.
“With our $2.25-million US purse, we’re in the top five on the LPGA Tour. In the players’ minds, they know where we stand and that’s certainly at the top of the heap. And we have the strongest field on the LPGA Tour, including all the majors,” tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said.
The LPGA’s latest phenom Yani Tseng headlines a field that includes, well ... everybody.
Defending champ Michelle Wie is always a fan favourite, as are fellow Americans Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr. Another American to keep an eye on is teen sensation Lexi Thompson, who is fresh off a 10-shot victory at Stage 1 of LPGA Q-School last month.
Two players who will be looking to end the Tseng coronation are former world No. 1s Ai Miyazato and Jiyai Shin.
Besides being a good bet to win next week, Miyazato is known to be deathly afraid of frogs, so expect to see her favouring bunkers over water hazards. Shin is an aspiring singer who has released an album in her native South Korea. If either hopes to reclaim the top spot in the Rolex world rankings, they had better forget about frogs and songs and focus on the 22-year-old Tseng, who has racked up four of the past eight majors and five in total.
“Yani Tseng has seven wins across the globe this year. She’s doing things that Tiger hasn’t done and playing at a level that may never be seen again, so that’s something to come out and watch,” Van Kesteren said.
Hillsdale Golf and Country Club is a 36-hole facility about 30 minutes outside Montreal and the 2011 Canadian Women’s Open will be played on their Laurentien course.
“The fairways are very receptive to tee balls and don’t provide that much roll, so the 6,600 yards that our course is slated to play at will play every inch of that,” golf course superintendent Pat Moir said.
“Some of our greens are quite undulating and should pose a pretty significant challenge to the players.”
One area of concern for Moir has been maintaining proper bunker depth and consistency, something he and his crew have been working on since the tournament venue was announced last year. It will be worth watching players play from the sand next week to see what shape the bunkers are in.
With the men’s Canadian Open over and both tours majors in the books, next week’s women’s Open is the last big event on a Canadian golf calendar that always ends too soon.
In a country famous for its winter, why is it that golf seems to hold a special place in the hearts of Canadians?
According to Van Kesteren it has something to do with hockey ... and, possibly, beer.
Doesn’t it always?
“We’re a social country and golf is just as much social as it is a physical activity,” he said. “Growing up playing hockey, golf was just a natural thing to do. You swing a golf club similar to a hockey stick and you keep yourself out of trouble for a few hours.”
While on the topic of Canucks, there are 17 in the field including Alena Sharp, Stephanie Sherlock, Isabelle Beisiegel and a rejuvenated Lorie Kane ,who is two weeks removed from winning a Legends Tour event by shooting 65 at the Wendy’s Charity Challenge in Michigan.
The CN Canadian Women’s Open begins Thursday and the first two rounds can be seen on TSN beginning at 3 p.m. CBC takes over on the weekend from 2p.m.-6p.m.
Course will be sneaky tough
Between 13 and 15-under par over four days.
That’s what Hillsdale Golf and Country Club head professional Derek Jones figures it will take to win the 2011 CN Canadian Women’s Open next weekend.
Built in 1953, the Howard Watson-designed traditional parkland layout will play between 6600-6700 yards and features generous landing areas and large greens. While that might seem like easy pickings for the pros, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
“At first sight the course looks scoreable but at the end of the day I think the ladies will find they will have to know where to miss their shots and where to hit their approach shots. Hitting it below the hole will be key on most holes,” Jones said.
A traditional parkland layout means fans can expect to see a very natural setting with tree-lined fairways and nothing overly tricked-up. There are no blind shots at Hillsdale’s Laurentian course.
What you see is what you get.
“It will be a great test. The players will use every club in their bag,” according to Jones.
We asked the Hillsdale head pro to give golf fans a preview of where they should expect the action to take place come Sunday.
“On the front nine, hole three will be a challenge. The green is heavily sloped from back to front,” he said. “You can put a pin in some places where you’ll have players putting it off the green.”
As with most great tournament courses, the drama will come on the back nine.
“Ten and 14 will be reachable par-5s. You can expect to see a lead change through that stretch,” Jones said. “ The finishing holes will be a good test for the ladies.”
“Seventeen is a very challenging hole. It’s a dogleg right. You won’t really see your landing area but anyone that struggles working the ball left to right off the tee will struggle with that hole. Hit it left and you’ll have some severe rough and you will be blocked off by a couple of trees. It will be imperative to play a cut shot off the tee.”
With the common shot on tour being a draw, it will be interesting to watch see which players can pull off the power fade when they need it.
“Eighteen is a dogleg left up a hill and I wouldn’t say the green is heavily sloped from back to front but if you’re not careful you could four-putt very easily by running your first putt off the green.”
In a nutshell, if you arrive to the final hole with a one-shot lead, keep your approach shot below the hole unless you want to head to a playoff.
Then again, we would love to see a playoff to decide the CN Canadian Women’s Open, so why not take an extra club?
Only the best for the best
The CN Canadian Women’s Open certainly has a major field, but it’s not a major.
Not anymore, at least.
For golf fans who don’t follow the LPGA on a week-to-week basis, here’s a refresher course.
From 1979-2000 the Canadian stop was one of the LPGA’s four majors. It was known as the Peter Jackson Classic from 1979-1983 (named after the cigarette, not the Lord of the Rings guy). It then became the du Maurier Classic from 1984-2000.
Hall of famer Pat Bradley — aunt of recent PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley — won the event a record three times when it was considered a major.
Keeping the tournament alive and flourishing post-2000 has taken a lot of work.
“It has been tough. We brought CN into the mix with them saving the event in 2006, which was the first year of our agreement with them. When you get a title sponsor that says: ‘What can we do to make this the best event on tour?’ That brings us up to a level that, I think, no other LPGA is on tour today,” tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said.
“The players are treated at our event like no other event. There’s nothing that we overlook.”
With all 50 of the top 50 on the LPGA money list competing at Hillsdale starting Thursday, it’s clear the loss of major status hasn’t stopped the tournament from being a marquee event on tour.