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Michelle Wie of the United States lines up a putt on the 10th green during the pro-am round Wednesday at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)
Michelle Wie of the United States lines up a putt on the 10th green during the pro-am round Wednesday at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)

Impressive field gathers in Waterloo Add to ...

The most sophisticated computer program for analyzing quality of field would have to agree with the most elementary way of examining the list of players assembled to play the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont.

Glance at the LPGA Tour’s money list and it is clear: An impressive field will tee it up when the tournament starts Thursday at Grey Silo Golf Course.

Eight of the top 10 money-winners are entered. Eleven of the top 15, 16 of the top 20, and 20 of the top 25 will compete in the $1.3-million (U.S.) tournament.

Yani Tseng, the LPGA’s leading money-winner this year and the No. 1 women’s player, isn’t in Waterloo, but Nos. 2 to 5 are.

How did a first-year tournament succeed in generating such a spiffy field?

The LPGA Tour has been going through comparatively hard times since 2008, when its schedule included 34 tournaments. The deteriorating economy led to a dramatic reduction in succeeding years. Only 24 tournaments were played last year.

Given the reduced schedule, most players enter the tournaments that are available.

The situation is starting to stabilize and even turn around, under the leadership of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.

This year’s schedule includes 28 tournaments. Meanwhile, the LPGA Tour has become a showcase for the many superb players from around the world. At the same time, this means players must travel widely to try to make a living in the game.

And they do.

This year, the LPGA is playing in 13 countries as far afield as Australia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and Brazil.

(The PGA Tour appears in four countries, with players having to travel no further than England – and that’s only if they are in next month’s Open Championship.)

As usual, LPGA Tour purses are nowhere near those on the PGA Tour.

The Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., is this week’s PGA stop. The purse is $6,000,000, with $1,080,000 to the winner.

The winner in Waterloo will get $195,000.

(A winner on the PGA Tour gets 18 per cent of the purse, while the LPGA Tour distributes the purse around a little more; a winner receives 15 per cent of the total prize money.)

The same proportions will prevail when the CN Canadian Women’s Open is played Aug. 23 to 26 at the Vancouver Golf Club. The purse there will be $2,000,000.

The purse for the RBC Canadian Open, July 26-19 at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, will be $5,200,000.

It’s no wonder, then, Lorie Kane of Charlottetown, who has won four LPGA Tour events, acknowledged this week that it’s “a struggle to make a living playing golf.”

That’s just being honest.

Still, nobody is more enthusiastic about the LPGA Tour’s prospects than Kane. She and fellow Canadians who play the LPGA Tour have talked up the new Waterloo event, and helped bring a strong field to the tournament.

There’s also another bottom line here, and it’s one that is true week in and week out in pro golf.

Every golfer in every tournament is there because he or she is gifted at the art and science of the game.

It’s terrific that 20 of the 25 LPGA money-winners are in Waterloo. It would also be no surprise if the winner comes from far down the money list.

These women are good. They only need more opportunities to demonstrate just how good they are.

This weekend is one such opportunity.

RELATED LINK:More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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