Cdn Kane hones mental side for Canadian Open

Lorie Kane prepares herself for the Canadian Open. (AP/Stephen Hindley)

EDMONTON — It’s become a game of numbers for Canadian golfer Lorie Kane.

She’s 48, tees it up with kids half her age, hopes to play another decade but knows to do it she must find five more minutes of concentration on the course.

“I think my game is better than even when I was winning. It’s just a matter of getting out of my own way,” Kane said in an interview Monday.

The Charlottetown golfer was at a news conference announcing some of the entrants for the upcoming CN Canadian Women’s Open at Edmonton’s Royal Mayfair Golf Club from Aug. 19-25.

“We all get caught in the trap of seeing results,” she said.

“If I’m standing over a drive, a chip or a putt, it (the focus) has got to be just that one shot.

“It’s 30 seconds of concentration,” she added. “My goal every day is to concentrate just five minutes longer.”

The comment reflects a player famous for her sweet swing and thunderclap drives but always looking to sharpen the mental edge.

Kane has a chance to reach some milestones in her 18th year on the LPGA tour. She is the highest-ranking Canadian on the tour money list with US$6,923,531 — just $76,000 away from the $7-million mark.

She is also stalled at 99 top-10 finishes, to go with her four victories.

But time and tide are not on her side.

Kane has missed the cut in six of 10 events this year and has finished no higher than 41st. She’s earned $17,596 this year.

It’s become the norm for Kane, who came to the pro game late, was the toast of the links in 2000 and 2001 but has been unable to recapture the magic.

It was February in 2001 — seven months before the horror of 9-11 — when Kane won her last event, beating Annika Sorenstam by two strokes in Hawaii’s Takefuji Classic.

She had won three times in 2000. Her first victory came in August 2000 at the Michelob Light Classic in Eureka, Missouri. Caddies and fellow players drenched her in cheers and beer after she putted out the final hole for the win.

To do it she conquered the mental demons that had led to nine previous second-place finishes and the half mocking-half sympathetic sobriquet of “lovable loser.”

She saw Edmonton Oilers great Mark Messier talking about winning being an attitude, a state of mind, and that’s when her game took off.

The awards flowed in, including Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1997. In 2006, she was named to the Order of Canada.

Stories were penned about her famous smile, her boundless charity work, and the fictive “evil twin” Judith whom she blamed for everything that went wrong on the course. (Judith is part of Kane’s full name).

But in the last five years the questions are moving toward when she will hang up the spikes for good. It has become a stock question that, on Monday, received once again her stock answer.

“Not even close,” she said. “I didn’t turn pro until I was 30. So I give myself 10 years’ grace. In another 10 years, we’ll chat.”

But it’s a plea for a cosmic mulligan to the gods of an unforgiving sport.

Joining her at this year’s Canadian Open will be past champions Britanny Lincicombe, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Katherine Hull-Kirk and defending open champion Lydia Ko.

They’re women, except for Kerr, born after the quintessential 1980 golf movie “Caddyshack” (“Big hitter, the Lama”) and can thrash the ball into the lower atmosphere while chipping and putting with robotic efficiency.

“We’re a lot deeper (in the LPGA) than we’ve been at any time,” said Kane.

There are signs Kane can still hold her own.

This year she is ranked 51st in driving accuracy at 72 per cent. Her short game still has game. She’s hitting 50 per cent in sand saves, good for 48th on tour.

And she isn’t the same competitor who, a decade ago at the Vancouver Golf Club, missed the cut, smashed her putter and broke into tears.

“What I’m learning is the more fun you have, the more relaxed you’ll be,” said Kane.

“Being pumped up all the time is not the best thing.

“You’re holding onto a stick and if your blood pressure is too tight, then you know everything else kind of gets too tight and — wow.”

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