Canadian women golfers

It’s an endless debate and one that I’m not going to be able to settle here. Heck, I’m not even going to try to argue who is the best Canadian female golfer ever. Mind you, there were plenty of millennium discussions on the subject, and a stream of articles on the “Golfer of the Century.” I contributed to the discussion, but now I’d simply like to celebrate the excellence of Canadian women on the course. There’s plenty to celebrate.

Let’s start with the present. The first golfer who comes to mind is Lorie Kane. The pride of Charlottetown has done nothing but distinguish herself since she arrived on the LPGA Tour on a full-time basis in 1997. She has won twice this year.

In the meantime, Kane has met one of her goals. The 35-year old has lowered her scoring average every year. That’s something she can control. Winning isn’t always in a player’s hands.

“If I keep bringing that down, winning will take care of itself,” Kane, one of the LPGA Tour’s most popular players, says of her scoring average.

Did I say “popular?” That doesn’t begin to describe the esteem in which Kane’s fellow players hold her. She’s won two significant awards for the consistently pleasantanner in which she conducts herself, and is always saying that it’s important to acknowledge the fans. You say hello to Kane, you get eye contact and a hello in return.

Kane is so well thought of that she can make things happen. She and the Tourism Development department in P.E.I’s provincial government hosted a new women’s skins game. The participants–Kane, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak. It’s hard to imagine a more impressive foursome.

That said, Kane is only the most well known today of a long line of superb Canadian women golfers. The LPGA Tour today includes Canadians Dawn Coe-Jones, Gail Graham, Nancy Harvey, superb players all. A.J. Eathorne, 23, from Penticton, B.C., finished 61st on the LPGA’s money list in 1999 with $145,162 (U.S.), recording three top-10s en route. Watch A.J. She can play.

That’s been the story for Canadian women over the years: They can play. Ada Mackenzie, born in Toronto in 1891, won everything in Canadian women’s golf. She took four Canadian Ladies’ Open Championships, eight Canadian Ladies’ Senior Golf Association championships.

Mackenzie also started what was then called the Ladies’ Golf and Tennis Club of Toronto, back in the 1920s. She founded the club because women didn’t have many opportunities to play the game. Only women can be members of the club, and it’s some course. Canadian legend Stanley Thompson designed the course, and it’s stood the test of time.

Marlene Streit followed Mackenzie as Canada’s finest amateur player. Streit, who was born in Cereal, Alberta in 1934, grew up in Fonthill, Ontario in the Niagara Peninsula. There she learned the game under the late Gord McInnis Sr., one of Canada’s finest teachers ever.

“Smoothness, tempo and rhythm,” McInnis repeated to Streit. She exemplifies those traits still, having established an amazing record; and she is still competing. Streit won 11 Canadian Ladies Amateur titles between 1951 and 1973. She won the 1953 British Ladies Amateur, the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 1963 Australian Ladies Amateur, and the 1985 and 1994 U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur Championships. The mind boggles.

Streit’s fellow-competitor Gayle Borthwick has also done exceptionally well. Borthwick, who was born in Vancouver, grew up in Regina and lives in Mississaugua, Ontario, won the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur in 1996 at medal play and in 1998 at match play. She’s won a Canadian Ladies Amateur, the Canadian Ladies Junior, and three Canadian Women’s Senior Amateur titles. Some record, I’d say.

Then there’s Jocelyne Bourassa, who won the forerunner to the du Maurier Classic, the LPGA major held in Canada. It was called La Canadienne when Bourassa won it in 1973. Bourse has had a major influence on the development of young Canadian women golfers, and has long been the tournament director of the du Maurier Classic. She’s classic herself.

This brings us to Sandra Post, Canada’s finest playing professional ever in the female ranks. Post, the first Canadian member of the LPGA Tour, won the LPGA Championship, a major, in 1968 when she was only 20. She won seven more times on the LPGA Tour, including three victories in 1979 when she was named Canada’s athlete of the year. Post, who lives in Caledon, Ontario, teaches full-time these days and is also executive editor of the magazine World of Women’s Golf. She wrote a book in 1997 with Loral Dean called Sandra Post and Me: A Veteran Pro Takes a New Golfer from First Swing to Tournament (McClelland & Stewart). Dean and Post tell of quite a trip. The book is worth reading.

So what do you think? The golfers I’ve mentioned suggest that Canadian women have been making their marks on the game. And there’s no reason to think this won’t continue, given that Kane, Eathorne and others are in the mix. To follow Canadian women in the golf world is to feel proud.

And rightly so.