Kane has fun, shares lead

The Baltimore Sun

Lorie Kane was among those who were sad to see the McDonald's LPGA Championship move from DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., to Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace three years ago.

The 43-year-old Canadian, seven years removed from her last victory, got over some of that melancholy in yesterday's opening round of the 2008 LPGA Championship.

Kane, who had missed the cut in five straight tournaments earlier this year and seven of the 11 events in which she played, made six birdies and no bogeys to share the lead at 6-under-par 66 with Emily Bastel.

They lead by one stroke over Lindsey Wright of Australia.

Five others were two strokes off the lead while top-ranked Lorena Ochoa of Mexico is in a group of nine players at 3-under 69.

Seeing her name on the leader board, let alone sharing the top billing, hadn't happened in a while for Kane, a former top 10 player.

"I think I was just trying too hard," Kane said of her recent struggles. "I was making it a big deal. And then I just decided, 'This is ridiculous.' I have been out here way too long to be beating myself up, and I stopped playing the game. I was working golf."

The decision to have more fun came at last month's Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Va., where Kane missed the cut.

Great results were not immediate -- a tie for 31st in Corning Classic and a tie for 54th last week in the Ginn Tribute -- and Kane came to the Baltimore suburbs with modest expectations.

Part of it is the fact that she had not played that well at Bulle Rock.

"It's not that I dislike the golf course," Kane said. "I guess it's that I liked DuPont so much, and I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the setup of golf courses.

"Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a beautiful property. I guess today, I just went out and played."

It marked Kane's lowest round of the year, eclipsing by two strokes the score she posted in the second round last week before shooting a pair of 75s.

"Am I surprised by a low round?" she asked rhetorically. "I knew it was in me and I know I have a lot more of those and I know it's a long way to Sunday, but I am encouraged by what's been happening the last few weeks."

A huge hockey fan, Kane drew some confidence and inspiration from watching the Stanley Cup Finals on television, particularly in seeing a veteran team such as the Detroit Red Wings defeat a bunch of upstarts, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"If I can put that into my golf game, I think I started the season like a rookie," said Kane, who has been on tour since 1996 and has been among the game's elite for a decade.

"I was quite nervous about trying to make cuts. And I'm not out here to make cuts. I'm out here to win tournaments."

Bulle Rock didn't play much like a major yesterday.

After nearly 2 inches of rain Wednesday night, the players were allowed to lift, clean and replace their balls in the fairway. The tee on the par-4 ninth was moved up more than 40 yards and the one on the par-4 18th was moved up 35.

"With it being as soft as it is, and obviously having the ball in our hands, it made for a little bit easier [shots]," Kane said. "It's very wet ... but I'm a mudder."

Others didn't take as much advantage of the soft greens.

Three-time champion Annika Sorenstam shot a 2-under 70, as did 2006 champion Se Ri Pak of South Korea. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway finished at 1-under 71.

"I'm not going to worry about where I am at the end of the day," said Sorenstam, who won her third straight LPGA Championship in the tournament's inaugural trip to Bulle Rock in 2005. "I just want to continue to play the way I am and look forward to a great week."

So is Kane, who tied for 62nd a year ago. When she flew into Washington on Monday, her caddie suggested she play the two Rockville courses where she will try to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open the day after this tournament ends.

Instead, she drove straight to Bulle Rock.

"I said, 'Look, I'm here to win the McDonald's Championship and I'm preparing for that," she recalled yesterday. "I'm going to worry about Monday when Monday comes."

Who knows? By then, Kane might be a bigger fan of the LPGA Championship's relatively new home than she was of the old place.


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