Sharp deserves more

Bob Weeks

Bob Weeks

Sharp deserves more

After 10 years on the LPGA Tour, Alena Sharp has come to a realization, one that may seem unusual for a player with more than $1 million in career earnings.

“I’m playing with the best players in the world and I’m finally waking up and realizing that there’s not much difference between them and me,” Sharp said after posting a 68 in the third round of the Manulife LPGA Classic. “I just have to start believing in myself and every day I get a little bit more confident.”

It’s not that Sharp has doubted her abilities or her choice of careers but she hasn’t always felt her game measured up to those of the best in the world. She has struggled through the years with different parts of her game, but this year, it seems that she’s starting to put it all together, at least as much as any golfer ever can.

The acceptance that there will never be perfection is part of the equation for Sharp, but so is knowing that every swing and every hole is a chance for redemption.

“I’ve played with all the top players and you can just tell they’re really confident over everything no matter what,” said Sharp, who is hoping for her first top-10 finish since 2010. “If they start bad, they know they’re going to get it back and that’s what I need to be doing and I’m doing it this week.”

That was the certainly case Saturday as the Hamilton, Ont., product rattled out of the gate with some shaky swings that sent the ball off to the right. But she managed to correct that and make a birdie on the par-3 third and another three holes later. A bogey on the seventh was followed by a bounce-back birdie on the 8th when she rolled a putt that fell in the side door. For every step back, she took one forward, refusing to be derailed by a speed bump.

“My putting saved me at the beginning,” admitted Sharp, who took a putting lesson earlier this week from her former coach, PGA of Canada pro Jeff Moore. “I’m just rolling it really well. It’s so much fun to get on the putting green. I’m actually enjoying putting for once.”

She added three more birdies on the backside, getting her to 12 under before stumbling at the last with a bogey after a sloppy chip.

Still, she received a boisterous ovation from the large gallery that lined the green and sat in the impressive skyboxes.

That recognition is something that hasn’t always been as loud for Sharp. While there has been plenty of deserved focus on 17-year-old phenom Brooke Henderson (and Sharp is one of the loudest supporters), Sharp has been plying her trade for a decade now. She may not have been challenging for wins on a regular basis during her career, but she has been arguably Canada’s best woman golfer for at least the last five years.

It’s not that she isn’t recognized or appreciated, but she never seems to get the attention from the media or golf fans that she’s probably owed.

It’s too bad, too, because as well as being a very talented player, she’s a wonderful person with a big heart.

This week, for example, she’s playing with thoughts of a close friend in her mind. Erin Lynch, the daughter of the family that Sharp has billeted with at the Toledo stop for a decade, was involved in a head-on collision last week and is battling for her life in a neuro intensive care unit. Sharp has checked in daily for updates and has marked her ball with the letters EL to keep her ever-present during her round.

On Sunday, she’ll try to guide that EL-marked ball around Whistle Bear GC well enough to grab that elusive top 10. Whether she does or not, it would be a great tribute if the fans were to rise and show some appreciation for a player who certainly deserves it.