Sep 2, 2011
Sharp wins PGA Women’s Championship of Canada

JEFF BROOKE

Par putt on eighth extra hole gives Sharp her second career title at this event.

THORNHILL, Ont. – Alena Sharp survived the longest playoff of her career to win the PGA Women’s Championship of Canada on Friday morning.

The LPGA Tour player from Hamilton made a par on the eighth extra hole at Bayview Golf and Country Club to defeat teenaged amateur Anna Kim.

It’s Sharp’s second title at the championship, a national event organized by the PGA of Canada and celebrating its 25th year. She also won in 2004.

It’s also a huge boost to her confidence as she gets set for the stretch drive of the LPGA season.

“It’s been a struggle this year,” said Sharp, who had a top-10 LPGA finish in May but has missed seven of eight cuts since. “I started out really well this season and then I started trying too hard because I had the success. When you try too hard nothing really works out.

“It’s been a hard leaning lesson. But to come back out and win this and play well here is great. It doesn’t matter if it’s a CPGA or a Futures or a Cactus Tour event, a win is a win.”

The playoff began Thursday evening after Sharp and 17-year-old Kim of Toronto finished the 36-hole tournament tied at seven-under-par 139.

They played six extra holes, the final two in near darkness, before play was called for the night. They returned Friday morning to continue, teeing off on the 18th hole at the private suburban Toronto course as a thin layer of fog still hung in the air.

Both made par as a crowd of Bayview members and PGA of Canada officials looked on – Kim drained a clutch, uphill 15-footer and Sharp tapped in after narrowly missing a eight-foot slider for birdie.

They both nailed their tee shots to the centre of the fairway on the eighth playoff hole – the dogleg 10th hole at Bayview – but then Kim made a rare error and hit her approach shot into a greenside bunker.

She failed to get up and down. Sharp needed just two putts from the centre of the green to notch the victory, her first on Canadian soil since she won a Canadian Women’s Tour event in Peterborough, Ont., in 2005.

She takes home $12,000 of the event’s $70,000 purse.

“It’s nice to play well at home because I haven’t in the past,” said Sharp, who plans to spend the weekend in her hometown before heading to Arkansas for the LPGA’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship next week.

“I’ve had struggles in Canada, just putting too much pressure on myself. So this week I came out with no expectations. I just had a lot of fun and stayed in the present.”

Kim, a Toronto native who’s been living in Chandler, Ariz., for the past six years, didn’t leave empty-handed.

She won a trophy for the being the low amateur in a field comprised of touring pros, club professionals and fellow amateurs.

The Grade 12 student also gained valuable experience in going toe-to-toe with Canada’s top-ranked female player, who is 13 years her elder.

“It was a good experience, I was really nervous, especially on my putting because I was playing with one of the top professionals Alena Sharp,” said Kim, who’s had a breakout year, winning two CN Future Links tournaments for juniors in Canada and qualifying for the LPGA’s CN Canadian Women’s Open last week.

“I learned a lot,” Kim added. “Alena is a great player. I think to get into the professional level I need to work a lot harder and make less mistakes, which is what amateurs do.”

Sharp didn’t notice those mistakes. She said she was impressed with how Kim didn’t back down.

“These kids have nerves of steel,” Sharp said. “It’s like, okay, they’re not going to break. I’ve got to make birdie. That’s what my caddy and I talked about. I’ve got to go out and make birdie because she’s not going to make a mistake.”

In the end, it didn’t quite work that way. Sharp needed only a par on the 44th hole. But her point was well-taken. Kim rallied to get into the playoff, shooting five-under 68 to catch first-round leader Sharp, and then held her own through the marathon playoff, believed to be the longest in tournament history.

Sue Kim, a former amateur star from Langley, B.C., tied for second place with Australian Sarah-Jane Smith, who tied Sharp’s course record with a 67 on Thursday.

Floridians Jodi Ewart, Beth Bader and Kris Tamulis shared fifth place with Ashley Sholer of Hamilton at five under.

Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., fresh off her professional LPGA debut last week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, finished ninth at four under.

The low club champion for the event was PGA of Canada member Sylvie Schetagne of Delson-Laval, Que.

Mary-Jane Hall, the PGA of Canada’s first female club professional from The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto, won the first-ever Legends division trophy.