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Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson
Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson

Short Game: Go inside the ropes with an LPGA pro Add to ...

One of the great things of watching women’s golf live, apart from the beauty of some of the women themselves, is seeing them play up-close.

With the exception of a few LPGA Tour events, the crowds are usually modest or small, which means fans can get right up against the ropes for an unimpeded view of the game’s best female players at work.

The only way to be any closer to them sometimes would be to go inside the ropes.

Well, that’s possible, too.

The Manulife Financial LPGA Classic is offering regular golfers like you and me a chance to play alongside some of the LPGA stars in its pro-am, held July 8, just before the tournament at Grey Silo Golf Club in Waterloo, Ont., begins its competitive rounds.

Sixty spots are available.

Pro-ams are commonplace on the LPGA, PGA and other tours. They generate the bulk of the money that tournaments donate to charity.

But the pro-am entrant fees are often prohibitively expensive and getting a spot can be a mysterious process. Not so at the Manulife Classic.

The cost is by no means cheap – $1,500 a person – but it includes golf, breakfast, on-course hospitality, a luncheon and cocktail reception, gift package and four any-day tournament passes.

And of course the chance to play golf with one of the best female players on the planet.

“The golfers last year were amazed at the quality of play they witnessed and the friendly, approachable manner of the pros,” says Peter Sweeney, executive director of St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation, which receives charitable proceeds from the event. “This is unlike any other golfing experience.”

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GOING LOW Graham DeLaet’s five-under-par 65 at the Honda Classic on Thursday tied his lowest score of the year on the PGA Tour. But it wasn’t a career-best. The long bomber from Weyburn, Sask., posted a 10-under 62 at the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2010, his rookie year on tour.

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LAB ON WHEELS The PGA Tour Canada might be the minor leagues of golf, but its players this year will get big-league equipment service.

The tour said this week that The Golf Lab will have its new equipment trailer at each tournament across Canada to supply players with club fitting and repair services.

The Golf Lab, founded by pro Liam Mucklow, is an indoor training and club-fitting centre in Vaughn, Ont. It recently unveiled a spiffy new 37-foot mobile trailer that includes two trackman monitors, three-dimensional motion capture technology, high-speed video, a players lounge with WiFi and TV, and a fully functional club-building shop.

“We're looking to improve the players' tournament experience as much as we can for 2013,” tour president Jeff Monday said.

The PGA Tour Canada season begins at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open on June 6 in Victoria.

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HERO TO ZERO: Shane Lowry went from a match-play darling to an also-ran in just a few days. Such is the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of tour golf.

Last week, the cheery and rotund Irishman knocked off world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, then defeated Carl Pettersson to advance to the third round.

Lowry lost his third-round match to Graeme McDowell, who like McIlrory is a North Irishman and friend of Lowry's, but he displayed a charming sense of sportsmanship by staying to cheer on McDowell from outside the ropes in the fourth round.

But with a new week, Lowry's new-found fame in North America entitled him to nothing. The European Tour regular was at the Honda Classic's qualifying tournament Monday trying to squeeze into the field of the PGA Tour event.

Lowry came up one stroke short, shooting four-under-par 67 to tie for fifth place among the 117 vying for four berths.

Alex Noren of Sweden and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, both of whom also competed in the Match Play in Arizona last week, were more fortunate. They each shot 66 to grab berths along with Americans Darron Stiles and Vaughn Taylor.

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