Bob Duff

May 26, 2016

 

The sun is shining. The grass is green. The day is beautiful in its splendour.

For the past 11 years, this is where Hamilton’s Alena Sharp has worked. The lush, tree-lined fairways of the golf course are her office.

From the outside, it looks glamorous and let’s not kid ourselves, travelling the world, spending your days golfing, it certainly is just that at times.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t also often a solitary existence.

“It’s kind of a lonely life,” Sharp, 35, admitted Thursday.

Alena Sharp of Hamilton plays a tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club on April 15, 2016 in Kapolei, Hawaii.
Alena Sharp of Hamilton plays a tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club on April 15, 2016 in Kapolei, Hawaii. Christian Petersen / Getty Images

There’s an old saying that there are no friends on the golf course. It’s everyone for themselves on the links, but each golfer, if they are fortunate, can count on one ally.

That would be their caddie.

Sharp feels fortunate to include herself among that group. She’s formed a solid bond with Sarah Bowman, who’s been on her bag since 2014.

“I’m lucky to have my caddie Sarah,” Sharp said. “We’re great friends. We spend a lot of time together.”

It wasn’t always that way for her. While searching for her game, Sharp also found herself seeking a caddie with whom she could click.

“This is my third season with her and I think it’s been the longest time that I’ve kept a caddie,” Sharp said of Bowman. “I’ve been on tour 11 years. I had one caddie for two years but it didn’t work out. The next year it was somebody else.

“I wasn’t bouncing around but I couldn’t find anything consistent.”

Sharp, who carded an opening-round one-over-par 73 Thursday in the LPGA Volvik Championship at the Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., has devoted much time in the past couple of years to fine-tuning her head game. She worked with Mimi Peak, a mental coach, and on her golf game with Golf Canada women’s amateur coach Tristan Mullally, who is here in Ann Arbor with her.

The benefits were immediately evident, as 2015 turned out to be her best year on the LPGA Tour. Sharp posted a pair of top-10 finishes, her first since 2010, and the first top five of her career while making 21 of 26 cuts and acquiring a bankroll of $272,757, good for 65th overall on the money list.

This season, Sharp sits 63rd in points and 73rd on the money list with $63,805, but it’s where she’s situated in terms of her mental state that most excites her.

“My game’s in good shape,” said Sharp, who’s the first to admit that she can go to dark places and beat herself up when things aren’t going her way.

That’s when Bowman — who bills herself as @sarahsherpa on Twitter — quickly steps in to burst the balloon of that negative energy before it can fester.

“She’s really positive so when I get down, she can see it and tries to nip it in the bud so it doesn’t get too bad,” said Sharp, who can also draw upon a wealth of support away from the golf course.

“I talk to my coach, I talk to my family, and I have friends at home that aren’t golfers and it’s easy to just get your mind off golf and just relax that way.

“It’s good to have different outlets.”

Most of all, it’s essential for a pro golfer to work alongside a caddie that they can trust implicitly, someone who will offer support when needed, but also apply a swift kick in the behind when that’s the required treatment.

“It’s helped me play better,” Sharp said of her relationship with Bowman. “We’re in a good routine and she knows what to look for if things go off.

“She knows what I’m working on mentally also. It’s really good teamwork and it makes me feel less lonely out here.”

bduff@postmedia.com

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