Women drive through

JOHN HERBERT

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Call it the Tiger effect.

Highland pro Mike Silver can't be sure if its Tiger Woods who sparked their golf interest, but London and area is producing some of the best young women golfers in Canada, including Lisa Maunu of St. Thomas and Karly Pinder, who arrived today in Leeds, England, to compete in the British Amateur.

Maunu, 20, is on a scholarship at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. She plays out of the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club.

Pinder, 21, is at Iowa State north of Des Moines and just finished her third year of studies. She plays out of Ironwood Golf Club in her home town, but is also a member at Highland Country Club in London.

Others top young players include former Ontario junior champion Angie Green of London, Walpole Island's Cheryl Mitchell, Western grad Lindsey Edmunds and former Londoner Jessica Shepley, who got her first lesson from instructor Ron Bannerman at a driving range on Oxford Street. All of them are playing on the CN Canadian Women's Tour and on the LPGA Futures Tour in the U.S.

"It's probably Tiger or Annika (Sorenstam) who got them interested," Silver speculates. "Very honestly, there are very good people in our industry, good professionals, to help a lot of these kids."

Their development can also be attributed to the Tyson junior tour, more competitive tournaments for women, clubs giving young girls more opportunities to play and golf scholarships to the U.S. Lately, it's the Royal Canadian Golf Association helping the most. As members of the RCGA eight-player national team, Maunu and Pinder have their way paid to the British Amateur and throughout the summer benefit from training camps, top coaching, tournaments, psychologists, nutrionists to groom them into top amateurs.

This year is the first for both on the RCGA team.

Pinder won her spot last summer earning merit points based on her play at several tournaments highlighted with a third- place finish in the Canadian Amateur and fifth and eighth- place finishes playing against the pros in CN Canadian Women's Tour tournaments. Maunu was fifth at the Canadian Amateur, but initially received an e-mail from the RCGA stating she was an alternate on the team. She moved up to the team a few weeks later when Mary Anne Lapointe, one of Canada's best amateurs, gave up her spot so a younger player could have the opportunity.

"The thing cool about this is most of them started at Thames Valley or in Tyson tournaments," Silver said.

Silver knows all about Pinder who arrived at his club six years ago after her father Ken called asking if he would look at her game. Silver said it didn't take long for him to realize he could help Pinder and offered her a "work for golf deal." That meant in exchange for free lessons and free golf, she would work in his back shop.

Now she's a member at the club

Maunu started hanging around the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club about the same time and caught the attention of pro Dan Campbell who put her to work in the shop. Maunu is one of about a 10 juniors Campbell has mentored in recent years who have landed U.S. college scholarships.

Naturally both Pinder and Maunu, friends and rivals since their days on the Tyson Tour, are excited about their first trip overseas for the tournament, which begins with 36-holes of medal play on Tuesday and Wednesday with the top 64 players advancing into match play.

Pinder googled the golf course at Leeds to find out what to expect. She said it is much like a Canadian course and is tree lined.

"It's a huge tournament for us," she said. "Obviously we need to be on the top of our game. I'll be thinking about the same things out there I'd normally think about on a Canadian or U.S. course."

"It will be my biggest challenge," said Maunu. "But I want to treat it the same as any other tournament. I really don't want to change mentally just keep my same game. We're fortunate to have two practise rounds."


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