The face of women's golf in Canada, her picture is seemingly everywhere at the London Hunt and Country Club. She draws cheers and shouts of encouragement at every turn and leaves a long trail of adoring fans clutching autographed hats and programs.
'I'm proud of that. I've worked hard on my game and myself,' said Kane, sporting tournament-saving title sponsor CN's logo on her red visor. 'For people to acknowledge my hard work and follow me, fellow Canadians or not, it's just a real honor.'
The 41-year-old Kane is trying to become the second Canadian to win an LPGA Tour event in Canada. Jocelyne Bourassa accomplished the feat in the 1973 La Canadienne. That event was the forerunner to the du Maurier Classic, a major championship for 22 years that folded after the 2000 event because of restrictions on tobacco promotions.
'I know that every fan out there wants a Canadian to win and I want it to be me,' Kane said Wednesday, a day before the start of play. 'But all I can do Thursday is put the peg in the ground and hit the first tee shot and then continue to chase it around for four more days.'
CN agreed to a three-year contract with the Royal Canadian Golf Association in October, taking over the title sponsorship after Bank of Montreal's decision to drop out after five years left the tournament in danger of folding.
'Obviously, CN is great,' said Kane, from Prince Edward Island. 'I played with some of the guys today and they're excited about women's golf.'
The railway has an option for an additional two years under the deal that includes the Canadian Women's Tour and Future Links developmental program.
'I didn't think we were going to be here,' RCGA executive director Stephen Ross said, recalling his pessimism about the event's future a year ago. 'We have our friends at CN to thank for that, for stepping up and ensuring that the LPGA stayed in Canada.'
Kane has three top-eight finishes in the tournament and also tied for fifth in the final du Maurier Classic.
'I think if you asked any of us Canadians, this is our open championship and I would love nothing better than to carry that trophy over my head Sunday,' she said. 'But there's a lot of things that have to go between now and that point. I really try to tell myself, once Thursday starts, that it's another golf tournament.'
The four-time LPGA Tour winner tied for 27th a year ago at Glen Arbour in Halifax, Nova Scotia -- 10 strokes behind winner Meena Lee -- amid the sponsor uncertainty.
'Last year, being in Halifax, my game wasn't probably where I would have liked it, but we were still trying to find somebody to take over,' Kane said. 'Lo and behold, in came the train with some people who are really excited about golf.'
The Hunt Club last hosted the national championship in 1993, Kane's first season as a pro. Brandie Burton beat Betsy King in a playoff that year, while Kane missed the cut. 'A lot of water under the bridge,' Kane said.
The tree-lined course, with large greens that cover nearly 10,000 square feet, was designed by Robert Trent Jones in the 1950s and renovated by Jones' son, Rees, in 2000. At 6,611 yards, it is the fourth-longest on the tour this year.
'I love the golf course,' Natalie Gulbis said. 'It could not be in any better shape. The weather is perfect. I think the buzz around with the players is that they are really excited to be here.'
Se Ri Pak, the McDonald's LPGA Championship winner, is in the field a week after a neck injury forced her to withdraw from the Women's British Open after a first-round 78. The South Korean star also is fighting pain in her left arm.
'I don't think it's getting worse, which is a good thing,' Pak said. 'I'm here and I feel ready to go. Hopefully, I'll have a good week.'
London is a city of about 350,000 roughly halfway between Toronto and Detroit. ... Meg Mallon has three victories in Canada. She won the 2000 du Maurier at Royal Ottawa, the 2002 Canadian Women's Open at Summerlea near Montreal and the 2004 event at the Legends on the Niagara. ... Kermit Zarley won the 1970 Canadian Open at the Hunt Club. ... The winner will receive $255,000 from the $1.7 million purse.