Working smarter, not harder, especially on the green, has made all the difference for Canada’s Maude-Aimée Leblanc.
The product of Sherbrooke, Que., retired from professional golf in October 2019 but returned in September 2020, reinvigorated after a year away from the grind of playing in a different city every week.
Leblanc had a remarkably strong 2021, finishing in the top 10 of what was then called the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s feeder circuit, to qualify for the top tour in women’s professional golf.
Leblanc has picked up where she left off this season, with two top-10 finishes in her first full year on the LPGA Tour. She was the only Canadian to make the cut at the DIO Implant LA Open last week, ultimately tying for 43rd.
“I think it’s the same reason why last year was also successful: my putting. My putting has made the biggest difference,” said Leblanc. “Since I started working with a new coach (Sal Spallone) a couple years ago, we worked on my putting a lot.
“It’s been extremely consistent since then.”
The six-foot-one Leblanc has always been a big hitter, with an average driving distance of 273.03 yards this season, 14th on the LPGA Tour. But with her putting dialed-in Leblanc’s closed the gap and is now ranked 37th in the Race to the CME Globe heading into this week’s Palos Verdes Championship in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
“I am a longer hitter, so yeah, sure, I’m going to miss a lot of fairways if I’m a little bit off that day, but that’s not what’s gonna make me miss a cut or not being able to finish top 10,” said Leblanc, who tied for eighth at the Gainbridge LPGA on Jan. 27 and tied for fourth at the JTBC Classic on March 24. “It’s really going to come down to the greens for me.”
On top of cleaning up her putting, Leblanc said that the 11 months away from professional golf gave her perspective. During that time she found the value in taking it easy on herself and limiting her time at the course.
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“I had to find a way to somehow enjoy the game again and just not put as much pressure on myself, take it too seriously,” said Leblanc. “To be honest with you, my practice time was probably cut in half.
“I definitely don’t practise as much as I used to. I don’t spend hours on the range, practising, trying to think about a million things.
“I feel like I simplify a lot of things now.”
Leblanc will be joined by Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., and Megan Osland of Kelowna, B.C., at the inaugural Palos Verdes Championship when it tees off on Thursday.
Osland qualified for the tournament on Monday after just missing out on making the LA Open the previous week. She said that her recent success was because she has developed a strong personal routine.
“Especially under pressure, like situations like today where I can just fall back on that routine and really trust it,” said Osland after qualifying. “I’ve done a lot of work on my putting as well and that really showed today too.”
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