All those practice rounds with Brooke Henderson have rubbed off on Alena Sharp.
At age 35, Sharp is in the midst of a breakout season on the LPGA Tour. She finished fourth at the Canadian Women’s Open on Sunday, her second top-10 of the season and her best-ever result on the LPGA Tour. The $379,657 (U.S.) she has earned this year is almost a quarter of her career winnings.
Now she looks to carry that momentum into her second consecutive tournament in Canada, starting Thursday at the LPGA Manulife Classic at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
Sharp credits Olympic teammate Henderson and Canadian national team coach Tristan Mullally for her resurgence. Henderson, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, and Sharp play all of their practice rounds on the LPGA together.
“Seeing her do well, it inspires all of us, not just me but all of us Canadians, knowing that Brooke is doing it, why can’t we?” said Sharp of the 18-year-old phenom on Wednesday afternoon. “I think she’s raised the bar, and she’s positive, aggressive. I love being around her.
“Just very infectious attitude, and I think it’s helped me kind of try and be an 18-year-old again and not be afraid of things and to go after it.”
Henderson turned pro midway through the 2015 season and she quickly hit it off with Sharp.
“We’ve become really good friends, especially over the last 18 months and again this year,” Henderson said. “We play a lot of practice rounds together. We always seem to catch up at some point during the week. And just really, really good friends. I’m glad to see her doing well and hopefully it will continue.”
Sharp outperformed Henderson at the Canadian Women’s Open in Calgary, shooting back-to-back birdies to finish with a five-under par on Sunday in the final round of play. Henderson, who tied for 14th, stood near the final hole to watch Sharp close out her tournament.
“I watched her face on the 18th hole when she finished and you could tell it meant a lot to her,” Henderson said. “She couldn’t believe it was still happening. She was still so focused and in the zone. It’s very cool.”
Sharp says that consistency is thanks in part to Mullally , who she started working with in 2015. He’s helped her become more consistent by firming up her backswing.
“I think it used to break down a little bit when I did get nervous, and I was kind of in contention or close to the top, wouldn’t get a good finish, finish in the 20s. That’s helped me a lot,” Sharp said. “My mental game is much better. [...] It’s a process.
“It may not happen this month, it may not happen next month, maybe seven months down the road, but this is what we’re working for, not instant results.”
Both Sharp and Henderson are playing in their “local” LPGA tournament at the Manulife Classic. Sharp is from Hamilton, about an hour away from Whistle Bear, while Henderson is from Smiths Falls, Ont., a five-hour drive.
Playing back-to-back tournaments in Canada after the Olympics has also meant bigger crowds following Henderson and Sharp.
“It’s great for us because Canada golf fans are amazing, no matter where we are,” said Sharp, who noted more fans than usual following her and Henderson in Calgary. “They’re so supportive and they love to come out and watch. I don’t think it’s going to be any different this week.”
Sharp and Henderson are two of 13 Canadians in the field at the LPGA Manulife Classic. They’re joined by Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., Calgary’s Jennifer Ha, Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane, Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., Maude-Aimée Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., Quebec City’s Anne Catherine Tanguay, Vivian Tsui of Markham, Ont., and Nicole Vandermade of Brantford, Ont.
Amateurs Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., Josée Doyon of St. Georges-de-Beauce, Que., and Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., round out the Canadian contingent.Report Typo/Error