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Battle of the Sexes: Shootout at Royal Oak

The moment I laid eyes on Lorie Kane, my macho inner voice warned me that I was about to get hustled—big-time. She was standing on the practice tee at Royal Oak Resort & Golf Club in Titusville, Florida, doing side bends with both palms pressed against her midsection. From a distance, she looked more like a female wrestler turned race-car driver than an LPGA Tour pro. Her broad shoulders were covered by a cotton-knit golf shirt decked out with patches advertising Bell Canada, Whirlpool and Cheerios, her blond-streaked brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and stuffed inside a blue cap stitched with McDonald's and Deloitte Consulting logos.

"I just got back from working out with my trainer at the International Performance Institute down in Bradenton, and I'm feeling it all over," Lorie informed me. "When I walked up the stairs of my condo last night, I said, 'Oh, yeah!'"

At six-foot-two and 185 pounds, I had Lorie by more than half a foot in height, but one look at the sturdy, well-tanned calves protruding from her blue Bermuda shorts told me we were probably much closer in weight and in muscle power. She looked up at me with an innocent smile spreading across her round, almost cherubic face, her brown eyes sparkling.

"I've also been nursing a rotator-cuff injury," she added.

I nodded as sympathetically as I could under the circumstances and set about doing a few stretches of my own, wondering what the hell I had got myself into and whether I could back out gracefully before it was too late. My fellow (male) magazine editors had suggested that it might be entertaining and illuminating to arrange a match between a scratch handicap such as myself and an LPGA pro; the golfing equivalent, if you will, of the fabled "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Like that landmark match, the inspiration for our little LPGA challenge was admittedly male chauvinist. The idea was: Are a man's advantages in strength and length enough to overpower a top-skilled woman?We'd asked the LPGA to provide one of the three top-ranked players, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb or Se Ri Pak, but they all had prior commitments, so we had to settle for Lorie, who was ranked number four.

Lorie's statistics attested to the fact that we weren't the ones getting stuck with chopped liver. Last year she brought home a cool $947,489 in prize money on the LPGA Tour. She was fourth in percentage of top-ten finishes (51.9), fifth in total birdies (340), sixth in percentage of greens in regulation (71.8) and sixth in scoring with an average round of 70.59. Although Lorie hadn't matched Sorenstam's single-round record of fifty-nine, her all-time scoring average of 69.42 or her 2001 single season record haul of $2,105,868, she had bested the sweet-swinging Swede in a head-to-head battle at the 2001 LPGA Takefuji Classic in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, with a final-round sixty-six for her fourth career victory.

Despite these stats, Lorie, 37, is known by her peers on tour as "Miss Congeniality," a moniker that causes her considerable chagrin. Born in Charlottetown, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, she had joined the tour in 1996 at the relatively ripe age of thirty-one. ("I do everything late," she admitted. "I didn't start talking until I was two, and I didn't get my driver's license until I was nineteen.") Over the ensuing four seasons, Lorie had racked up nine second-place finishes without a victory, one short of Laura Baugh's record, and had earned the double-edged reputation of a "lovable loser" who always smiled through defeat. After her breakthrough win at the 2000 Michelob Light Classic in St. Louis, she won three more times in her next sixteen starts.


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