Grand Finale Meg Mallon kept her shot at a career grand slam alive by winning the last du Maurier

August 20, 2000

Nothing that Meg Mallon said after her victory at last week's du
Maurier Classic in Aylmer, Que., had quite the resonance of her
words three weeks before, when she was asked how it felt to tie
for second in the U.S. Women's Open. "It just sucks," said the
usually chipper Mallon. "It hurts like nothing else. It's like
being brought to the dance and having your date leave you." The
pain didn't go away, either. After a week's rest Mallon played at
the Michelob Light Classic in St. Louis, growing edgier every
time a fan or caddie stopped her to say, "Way to go, Meg!" or
"Great Open!"

"It wasn't a great Open," the 37-year-old Mallon said on Sunday
afternoon after what turned out to be a great du Maurier. "It
was a good Open." A great Open for Mallon would have had her
beating Karrie Webb by five strokes at Chicago's Merit Club,
instead of the other way around. A great Open would have
been--well, hell, she hadn't had a great Open since 1991, when
she won the event two weeks after her victory in the LPGA
Championship and transformed herself from Miss Congeniality into
Miss to Be Reckoned With. The 36 majors Mallon had played since
then had only tested her patience. This year she ate Webb's dust
not only at the Open but also at the Nabisco Championship, which
the Australian won by 10 strokes. Mallon, who finished third,
was just another also-ran--albeit a rich one, with 12 victories
and almost $5 million in prize money to show for her 13 1/2 LPGA
seasons.

On Sunday morning Mallon woke up in her bed at the Ottawa
Marriott, threw back the curtains on a dazzling Canadian dawn
and stared her own legacy in the face. She trailed coleaders
Annika Sorenstam and Lorie Kane by three strokes going into the
final round of the du Maurier. If she was going to have a shot
at winning the career grand slam--pending a victory in the
Nabisco--Mallon had to win that very day.

Her reasoning was at least tentatively sound. The du Maurier is
shutting down after 28 years because a Canadian bill passed in
1997 prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring sports events.
That leaves the LPGA limping along with three majors, and until
a substitute for the du Maurier is found--the tour is eyeing the
British Women's Open--there can be no authentic grand slam for
anyone who hasn't already won the Canadian major.

So Mallon drove to the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and with a
three-under-par 69 edged Rosie Jones by a stroke, winning
$180,000 and the crystal ashtray--er, trophy. "You talk about
giveth and taketh away," a happy Mallon said. Presumably she was
talking about the golf gods, not the smoking police.

Truth is, the du Maurier has long been the invisible major. Most
newspapers in the U.S. gave it an inch or two of wire service
coverage; network television ignored it completely. (Just who
was this du Maurier, anyway--the French swordsman played by
Stewart Granger in Scaramouche or a Dickens character in A Tale
of Two Cities?) That aside, it has been a gem of a tournament.
Over the years du Maurier, a brand of Imperial Tobacco, has
poured millions of dollars into prize money, venues and
hospitality, and many LPGA players considered it their favorite
major. ("I don't think of tobacco when I think of du Maurier,"
says tour veteran Dawn Coe-Jones. "I think of people in red
shirts and black pants running all over doing things for you.")
The golf courses were usually of the lush parkland variety
surrounded by snowcapped mountains. There was also something
beguiling about playing in a no-pressure major--even if it meant
having to send all those I WON A MAJOR cards to friends and
family.

The end being imminent, this year's du Maurier buzz centered on
Webb and on What Next. With a victory in the final du Maurier,
Webb would have joined Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Ben Hogan,
Mickey Wright and Pat Bradley as the only players to earn three
major championships in the same year. It was a race of
sorts--Tiger Woods will try for the three-quarters slam this
week at the PGA Championship in Louisville--but Webb stumbled
out of the blocks at Royal Ottawa and tied for seventh, seven
strokes behind Mallon. "My whole game was off this week," Webb
said. "I hit it real bad and made the putts, or I hit it real
good and made nothing."

As for What Next, the players and LPGA officials watched the
horizon, hoping that some corporate sponsor would come forward to
replace du Maurier. "It feels like the imminent death of a family
member," said tournament director Jocelyne Bourassa, who won the
event in 1973 when it was called La Canadienne. But no white
knight galloped up Aylmer Road with a check for $7 million, the
amount the tobacco company lavished on the final tournament.
Instead, the expression of Canadian pride was ceded to some
vandals who jumped the fence last Friday night and carved I AM
CANADIAN and GO CANADA into the first green.

Fortunately, the last du Maurier had 35-year-old Canadian native
Lorie Kane, the LPGA's ambassador of gratitude. Kane is a child
of the Maritimes Provinces, and like the geese in Fly Away Home
she needed help to get where she is today. She didn't qualify for
the tour until she was 31, holding down jobs as a salesclerk and
as a manufacturer's rep for Moosehead Breweries. Consequently,
she treats people as if they were paid-up members of the Lorie
Kane Fan Club. At the Women's Open in July, she walked through
the merchandise tent clutching a pile of hats. "They're for all
the guys at the club," she said, referring to the Belvedere Golf
Club in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. "If I go home
without hats, I'm in trouble."

Kane did everything but toot Canadian Sunset on the kazoo to
entertain the fans at Royal Ottawa. When she wasn't playing
superb golf (her second-round 67 was the low score of the week),
she was making impassioned pleas for "corporate Canada" to save
the tournament, and on Saturday afternoon she signed autographs
for fans at a scheduled lovefest. "This is part of me; this is
where I began," Kane explained. "We're going to find a way to
continue the Classic, come hell or high water."

Neither hell nor high water posed a problem at Royal Ottawa, but
only six players broke par for 72 holes. The course's terraced
fairways and tiny greens put a premium on accuracy, which is why
the powerful Laura Davies finished 23 over par and why only two
of the tour's top 10 in driving distance made the 36-hole cut.
Thick greenside rough made short-side chips treacherous; when
Helen Alfredsson ran a little chip 15 feet past the hole last
Friday, she expressed her frustration by yelping in Swedish and
giving her golf bag a baseball-style whack with the club. The
setup, in other words, was ideal for Mallon, a
fairways-and-greens player, and for Sorenstam, who hits the ball
crooked about as often as she screams in Swedish, which is to
say, almost never.

Sorenstam's strength is her conviction that golf, not to mention
life, can be broken down into manageable bits and perfected, if
one has self-discipline and good data. She is the LPGA's dot.com
golfer, tapping performance numbers into a laptop computer and
then darting to other windows to check her stocks and E-mail. But
sometimes golf doesn't yield to the IT mentality. Sorenstam
suffered a crisis of confidence in February 1999 when she missed
a couple of four-foot putts on the first hole of a playoff at the
Valley of the Stars Championship, handing victory to Catrin
Nilsmark. The uncharacteristic choke haunted Sorenstam for
months, contributed to her slide from first to fourth on the
money list last year and put her in the shadow not only of Webb
but also of Juli Inkster, who won two majors while Sorenstam's
screen was frozen. In March, though, she made a four-foot putt
for birdie to beat Pat Hurst in a playoff at the Welch's Circle K
Championship in Tucson. She immediately became the Sorenstam of
old, winning four tournaments and vaulting to second on the money
list.

A showdown between Sorenstam and Kane seemed inevitable. Through
three rounds Sorenstam was six under par and barely burning
calories with her errorless, straight-line play. Kane, too,
seemed locked in, after having thrown off the bridesmaid label
(nine LPGA second-place finishes without a victory) the week
before by winning the Michelob. Fans in I AM A KANE-ADIAN
T-shirts lined the fairways at Aylmer, screaming encouragement.
"It was like a hockey game," Sorenstam's husband, David Esch,
said after Saturday's round. "I'm surprised a fight didn't break
out."

Hardly anyone was paying attention to Mallon. Or to Inkster. Or
to the 41-year-old Jones, who has never won a major but has
finished in the top 10 at majors a remarkable 21 times. Or to
tour rookie and first-round leader Diana D'Alessio, who planned
to spend a few weekend hours viewing Renoirs and Monets at the
National Gallery of Canada but instead put on a fine exhibition
of her own, finishing fourth.

The final round of the final du Maurier was, in many respects,
disappointing. Sorenstam and Kane backed up so fast that even
Davies got her hopes up. By the time the leaders had played seven
holes they weren't leaders anymore. Mallon, with three birdies on
the front side, was in command. Sorenstam didn't make a birdie
until the 14th hole and shot a 74 to finish third. Kane fought
her driver all day and fired a 76, dropping her into a
fifth-place tie with Inkster. It was Kane's duty to hole the last
putt of the tournament--a two-footer for bogey on the 18th
green--but not before she had to walk to her bag and wipe away
tears with a towel. "I'm going to be a very sad Canadian," she
said later, "if we can't find a way to have a tournament here."

Afterward souvenir hunters picked up anything that wasn't nailed
down--posters, programs, paperback copies of The LPGA's Guide to
Every Shot (Kane's chapter: "Balancing Off-course Priorities with
the Development of Your Golf Game"). Hall of Fame golfer Amy
Alcott picked up a caddie bib, saying, "They won't be needing
these anymore." Alcott won the du Maurier in 1979, when it was
called the Peter Jackson Classic.

Mallon? The last du Maurier winner followed a team of security
guards through the dark basement passageways of the Royal Ottawa
clubhouse, asking finally, "Is this the way to the locker room?"
Her uncertainty matched the mood on Sunday, as the LPGA wrestled
with its major problem--which is the major problem.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID WAHLBERG Meg-nificent To win her first major in nine seasons, Mallon came from three strokes off the pace with a 69 on Sunday. COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Kane unable Despite rousing support and a share of the lead after three rounds, the native Canadian couldn't bring the title home. TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (2) Over and out The normally unflappable Sorenstam (left) pulled a final-round fade, while Webb never got her game going.

"This is part of me, this is where I began," Kane says. "We're
going to find a way to continue the Classic, come hell or high
water."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)