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Rubenstein: Big bomber Leblanc back on the tee

Maude-Aimee Leblanc

One Canadian has posted a top-10 finish in a professional event this year. That's Maude-Aimee LeBlanc. The Sherbrooke, Que. golfer played in a one-day Tour event on Jan. 14th at the TPC at Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla. She shot two-under par 70 to tie for third, two shots behind winner Sunny Kim of Palm Beach Gardens. Kim is the leading all-time money winner on the tour, with $120,996 to his credit.

The Tour is open to men and women. Women play from time to time, although not in every event. LeBlanc, who won the 2006 Canadian Junior before starring for Purdue University and helping the team win the 2010 NCAA Championship, finished five shots better than LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson. Thompson has won on the LPGA and Ladies European Tours. The 17-year-old finished 21st on last year's LPGA Tour, when she won $611,021. LeBlanc and Thompson were the only women in the GOLFslinger event.

LeBlanc had won her LPGA Tour card for last year after tying for seventh in the previous qualifying school tournament. But she injured her back and had to stop playing in August after only eight tournaments. The 23-year-old, six-foot, one-inch LeBlanc missed the last five tournaments of the year. She is eligible to make up those tournaments when the LPGA Tour begins its schedule next month.

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Nobody on the LPGA Tour drives the ball further than LeBlanc. She averaged 282 yards, but her name does not appear on the LPGA stats for last year, presumably because she didn't play enough events to qualify for recognition in the category. Brittany Lincicome led in driving distance, officially, at 276 yards. Thompson was next at 272 yards. In the GOLFslinger event, the men played the TPC @ Eagle Trace course at 7,040 yards. LeBlanc and Thompson played it at 6,654 yards. It was LeBlanc's first tournament since she left the LPGA Tour last year because of her back problems.

"The women play at 94 per cent of the yardage the men play," Jay Slazinski, a former tour pro and the founder and owner of the Tour, told me. "We have a formula for that."

Sarnia, Ont. pro Matt Hill, by the way, shot 74 to tie for 10th. Hill, 24, was the leading college player in the U.S. in 2009. He led the Canadian Tour's Order of Merit last year, meaning that he won the money title. That tour, of course, is now PGA Tour Canada.

As for LeBlanc, she clearly has the physical game to compete on the LPGA Tour if she can stay healthy. She lives in Ft. Lauderdale, so she has plenty of opportunity and good weather to work on her game. And, more and more, length is an asset on the LPGA Tour just as it is on the PGA and European Tours.

LeBlanc's next tournament is Wednesday this week, where she'll play the next GOLFslinger event, at the Jacaranda Country Club in Plantation, Fla. She's preparing for what she hopes will be a full season on the LPGA Tour, a season in which she can begin to fulfill the promise she was showing before she was hurt.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein


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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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