A new feeling for Kane at the du Maurier - as a winner and a favorite

AYLMER, Quebec - Lorie Kane is home again, a bittersweet winner.

After years of frustration, Kane finds herself with a chance to win her first major - and perhaps the final one in Canada.

The du Maurier Classic, the last women's major of the year, opens its final edition Thursday at the par-72, 6,403-yard Royal Ottawa Golf Club, with tour organizers searching for a replacement for the longtime sponsor squeezed out by anti-smoking laws.

For Kane, currently Canada's most successful golfer, it makes for a rough homecoming.

''It saddens me to think that on Sunday when the last putt is in the hole and we crown a champion, all the work and efforts to host a major championship, which is vital to women's golf in this country, that they can't find somebody to come to the plate,'' Kane said. ''It shocks me.''

Du Maurier is a brand name for Imperial tobacco, and Canadian law forbids the company from sponsoring the tournament after this year. That has left organizers of the event - which is rotated annually among Canada's top courses - scrambling to keep the tournament alive.

LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw is waiting to see if a new sponsor can deliver enough money and prestige to keep the event a major on the LPGA tour.

Votaw said the future of the LPGA's fourth major will be resolved by the end of September. The other major tournaments on the LPGA tour are the U.S. Women's Open, the Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship, all played in the United States.

Scores of promising Canadian girls have helped develop their skills at du Maurier-sponsored clinics and golf events, Kane said.

''I understand, or I have a feeling, that the tobacco issue is very emotional,'' Kane said. ''And I don't want to go in that direction. I do know that it's not about tobacco, it's about golf. It's about promoting women's golf.''

With more than $2 million in career winnings, the 35-year-old Kane has become the most successful of the 13 Canadian women on the LPGA tour. She will often wear her nation's red-and-white colors in competition.

When she finally won for the first time last week in St. Louis at the Michelob Light Classic after nine career second-place finishes, the story dominated the same Canadian sports pages that have portrayed Kane as a choker.

''Kane ... and Able!'' trumpeted the Toronto Sun. ''Cheers to You, Lorie'' bannered the Ottawa Sun.

''I think 99 percent of the players were cheering for Lorie to win, especially coming to the du Maurier,'' Karrie Webb said. ''The Canadian press has been pretty hard on her for coming in second a lot. ... Now she doesn't have to answer those questions anymore.''

Kane said she can feel the relief already.

''I think the biggest thing is that the weight is off my shoulders,'' she said. ''And that was a weight placed on there by me.''

Even with Kane's national pride and home-course advantage, no one has the motivation at the du Maurier that Webb does. With a victory here, the Australian can become the first player since Pat Bradley in 1986 to win three major championships in one season. She can also claim a $1 million bonus put up by Nabisco for the winner of three majors in one year.

''It's definitely a big carrot dangling out there,'' Webb said. ''But really, I can't do anything but win, which is what I try to do every week.''

With 21 career tour victories and enough wins in majors - three out of the past four - to qualify for the Hall of Fame, Webb said her new goal is to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the LPGA Championship. She won the du Maurier last year in Priddis, Alberta, for her first major and this year won the Nabisco and the U.S. Women's Open.

''Other than that, winning golf tournaments is good enough,'' said Webb, who is only 25. ''To be there in position - to put my game on the line, produce good shots, make a good putt to win a tournament. At the end of the year, I'll probably sit back and think of more goals.''

Divots: Webb said she has not been approached about playing in a reported made-for-TV match against Tiger Woods. Both golfers are represented by the International Management Group. ''You'd think if it was going to happen, it would have to be discussed with IMG, and I can tell you it hasn't been,'' she said. ''So it's just a media thing, I guess.'' ... Dottie Pepper is not playing because of a sore back that forced her to withdraw during the second round of the U.S. Open. ... Leading rookie money winner Grace Park withdrew with a rib muscle injury.


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