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Silhouette of a golfer (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)
Silhouette of a golfer (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Short Game: Johnston set to get Latinoamerica card Add to ...

Matt Johnston of Winnipeg is in good position to earn his PGA Tour Latinoamerica card for 2013.

The 28-year-old was tied for fifth place at the Latin circuit’s qualifying school in Sebring, Fla., after six holes when the third round was suspended because of bad weather.

Play resumes Friday morning. The top 20 finishers after the fourth round concludes earn full-time cards on the Latinoamerica.

Krister Eriksson of Sweden and Jhared Hack of the United States led the Q-school.

He has played in recent years on the PGA Tour Canada. He also had status on the Asian Tour last year.

If he gets his Latinoamerica card, he’ll join Andrew Parr of London, Ont., on the third-tier tour that is owned and run by the PGA Tour.

Parr earned his card at the tour’s other Q-school this month, in Peru.

Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, Ont., gave himself a chance of squeezing into the top 20 at Sun N Lake Golf Club by shooting one-under 71 in the third round.

Three over after three rounds, he was two shots out of the top 20.

Johnston was three under, four shots behind Eriksson and Hack.


STARTING WITH A BANG: Alena Sharp of Hamilton has won her first competitive start of 2013, edging Cara Freeman in a playoff at a Cactus Tour event in Phoenix on Wednesday.

It’s her fifth career title on the Arizona-based mini-tour.

Sharp caught Freeman in the third round Wednesday at Foothills Golf Club, erasing a four-shot disadvantage to force a playoff. She then won on the second playoff hole.

Figuring she needed to shoot seven-under 65 in the final round, Sharp carded a  66 that began with a birdie and eagle on the first two holes. She was six under through nine holes and parred in from there.

On the second playoff hole, she took an aggressive line off the tee on the par-five and left himself with just 215 yards to the hole. Sharp then hit another aggressive shot to pin high and nearly dunked her chip for an eagle. With Freeman driving her tee shot into a bunker and needing four shots to get on the green, the tap-in birdie was good enough for victory.

The 31-year-old usually plays on the LPGA Tour but is skipping its swing this month through Australia and Asia.

She plans to stay on the lower-tier Cactus and Symetra tours this month and make her LPGA season debut in March at the RR Donnellly Founders Cup, also in Phoenix, close to where Sharp makes her home now.

Sharp is coming off a disappointing year on the LPGA Tour, her eighth. She lost full-time status.

Her performance prompted her to return to her original coach, Jeff Moore, who taught Sharp for 12 years beginning when she was 12.

The move paid instant dividends when Sharp won the PGA Women’s Championship of Canada in late August in a runaway.

Sharp and Moore continued working over the off-season. Success continued.  “I have a great coach,” she tweeted Wednesday evening.


INDOOR FIREWORKS: The Toronto Golf & Travel Show better bring out the heavy-duty netting at its indoor driving range.

Jamie Sadlowski is coming.

The long-driving champion from St. Paul, Alta., will be at the 24th edition of the show next month for a demonstration. With a 148 mile-an-hour swing speed and peak ball speed of 215, the 24-year-old has been known to blast holes in nets and screens when he’s hitting indoors.

The show runs March 1 through 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Sadlowski, who won the 2008 and 2009 Re/Max World Long Driving Championship in Nevada, smashing his winning drive 418 yards in 2008, is scheduled to be appear in the show’s teaching and demo arena on the final two days.

Michael Breed, the PGA of America’s teacher of the year and a Golf Channel personality, will also attend, on the opening day.

The show is a harbinger of spring for Ontario golf enthusiasts. Attendees can try the latest equipment, gets lessons and visit the exhibits of various golf destinations.


HOME FIELD: The PGA Seniors' Championship of Canada will be held this year in Fonthill, Ont., at Lookout Point Country Club, a classic gem perhaps best known as amateur legend Marlene Streit’s home course.

The 54-hole championship, for PGA Tour of Canada members 50 years and older, begins Aug. 7.

Noted amateur player and architect Walter J. Travis designed the tree-lined traditional course, which opened in 1922 and has views of the Niagara Falls skyline to the south.

"The field is going to love playing on a golf course that's a complete throwback with lots of elevation changes, small tough greens and holes that demand players to work the ball both ways off the tee," Lookout Point head pro J.J. Alexander said in a news release.

The tournament dates to 1938 and has been won by a who’s who of Canadian golf, including Stan Leonard, Moe Norman, Bob Panasik,  Al Balding and Jim Rutledge. Norman won this championship a record seven consecutive years from 1979 to 1985, while Balding turned back the clock by winning the championship at 76 in 2000.


CALGARY COURSE CLOSING: Calgary plans to shut down the McCall Lake Golf Course in the city’s northeast end after the 2014 season, citing “significant operating and capital costs.” The muni’s land is to be sold off, making room for an industrial and other recreational purposes.


KANE JUMPING AROUND: Lorie Kane of Charlottetown will play on the LPGA Legends Tour next week after she returns to North America from Australia.

Kane has been Down Under this month to open her 2013 season. She played last week in the New Zealand Women’s Open and will tee it up again this week at the Australian Women’s Open, the season opener on the LPGA Tour.

The 48-year-old has committed to playing next week on the Legends Tour at the Walgreens Charity Classic in Sun City West, Ariz.

Since turning 45, Kane has inserted Legends events into her schedule when they don’t conflict with her regular gig on the LPGA Tour. She has one Legends victory.

The 36-hole Walgreens features a 43-woman field that also includes defending champ Rosie Jones, Pat Bradley, Amy Alcott, Canadian Dawn Coe-Jones and Danielle Ammaccapane, who’s making her Legends debut.


SHARP FOUR BACK: Alena Sharp of Hamilton will have to go low Wednesday if she’s going to win her third career Cactus Tour event.  The LPGA Tour veteran, in her first competition this year, is four shots behind leader Cara Freeman heading into the final round at Foothills Golf Club in Phoenix. Sharp is at three-over 147 after shooting 72 Tuesday.


SILVER IS GOLDEN: Much is made of Canada’s lack of success at golf’s highest levels. A Canuck hasn’t won on a major tour since Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls, Ont., hoisted the AT&T Championship trophy on the Champions Tour in 2010.

But that doesn’t mean Canadians aren’t winning. They actually are winning a lot. It’s just that their triumphs are at lower levels, off the radar of most fans.

Take Ben Silverman, for example.

The 25-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., has made first place a habit on the Florida-based Golfslinger Tour.

The most recent of his 12 career victories came Monday at the tour’s one-day event in Lake Worth, Fla. Silverman shot six-under-par 65 to get into a playoff with American Jimmy Lytle, then won on the first extra hole by making an 18-foot birdie putt.

Mini-tour rewards are small. Silverman pocketed just $1,000 (U.S.). But he’s making enough to survive – he earned $46,000 last year – but he’s gaining something equally important: experience.

A pro since 2010, Silverman has set his sights on the PGA Tour. He’ll try to take another step toward that goal by competing at the PGA Tour Canada’s qualifying school this April.

Earning a card on that third-tier tour would give him a summer schedule on his home soil and a chance to graduate to the second-tier Web.com Tour, where purses reach $1-million.

Last year, other Canadian mini-tour winners included Nick Taylor, Richard T. Lee, Alena Sharp, Sue Kim, Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Stephanie Sherlock.

“There are tons of great Canadian players on the Web.com Tour and other smaller mini-tours around North America,” Silverman said in an e-mail. “If golf fans paid more attention to tours other than the PGA Tour, they would see that.”

He pointed to Canucks such as David Hearn and Americans such as Steve LeBrun, who’ve played their way to the PGA Tour from humble beginnings.

Silverman feels the mini-tours are preparing him well for the same success.

“Winning scores on mini-tours are incredibly low,” he said. “... You’re forced to shoot low nowadays no matter where you play if you want to win. Don’t underestimate the ability of top mini-tour players these days.”

There’s no underestimating Silverman, for sure. He’s proven he can win. And win. And win.


HERE WE GO: Alena Sharp launched her 2013 season on Monday at a Cactus Tour event in Phoenix.

The Hamilton native, who makes her home in Arizona, shot five-over 77 at Foothills Golf Club and was tied for eight place, four shots behind first-round leader Cara Freeman of the United States.

The 54-hole event wraps Wednesday.

Sharp is the only LPGA Tour player from Canada who didn’t make the long trip to Australia to play in the LPGA’s season opener this week.

Lorie Kane, Sara Maude Juneau, Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, Stephanie Sherlock and Rebecca Lee-Bentham are all entered in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, which begins Thursday.

Sharp, 31, is listed as the second alternate at the Australian Open, meaning she’d be get into the field if two entrants withdrew.

But she has planned to make her LPGA season debut at the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, when the tour returns from Australia and Asia in March.


CLOSE BUT …: Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., and Ryan Yip of Calgary shot three-under 69s at the Northern Trust Open’s Monday qualifier, but it wasn’t quite good enough to earn them a berth in the PGA Tour event this week.

Just the top four advanced. Hadwin and Yip tied for 11th place in the qualifier, two shots away from tying for third place (and forcing a playoff) with Americans Cameron Beckman and Scott Harrington.

Cory Renfrew (70) of Victoria and Mitch Evanecz (76) of Red Deer, Alta., also failed the crack the top four.

The Monday qualifier drew a stellar roster of players trying to get into the Northern Trust at iconic Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles.

Former major champions Lee Janzen and David Duval, veterans Billy Mayfair and Chris DiMarco, Vaughn Taylor, Nick O’Hern and notable PGA rookies Billy Horschel and Scott Langley were among those teeing it up.


SECOND THOUGHTS: Jason Logan’s ScoreGolf story on Jessica Shepley’s brief retirement is worth reading.

As Logan notes, Shepley called it quits last fall after missing her seventh cut in 10 LPGA Tour starts in 2012. She was disenchanted with the game. But the 29-year-old had a change of heart after reflecting on her retirement over the holidays and realizing she had given up on her childhood dream.

“It makes me a little angry that I never accomplished what I wanted to,” she said. “I don’t think I came anywhere close to accomplishing what I am going to in the next few years and that kind of pissed me off a little bit that I walked away.”

It’s a powerful story, common to many athletes who go through spells in which they lose their way.


A ‘MONDAY QUALIFIER’ ON TUESDAY: Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., and Alan McLean of London, Ont., both failed to play their way into the European Tour’s Africa Open on Tuesday.

Gligic, who missed the cut in his European Tour debut last week at the Joburg Open,  carded a 1-over 73 while McLean was a further stroke back. They were among 83 players vying for 10 spots in the Africa Open.


YOU’RE WELCOME: Rocco Mediate quickly got into the rhythm of the Champions Tour, winning his first start at the Allianz Championship on Sunday.

Canadian rockers Rush helped him find that groove. As Golf Channel correspondent Tim Rosaforte reported Monday, Mediate warmed up on the range with the prog rock stylings of Rush playing on his iPod. Rather than wearing headphones, the outgoing Mediate had his iPod in his back pocket playing tunes through his trousers.

Rosaforte noted Mediate is friends with Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson.


NO LOVE: Mike Weir has been snubbed again at the Northern Trust Open, a PGA Tour event he’s won twice.

In a news release announcing the field, the tour omitted the Canadian left-hander from the tournament’s list of past champions.

Weir won the event at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles in 2003 and 2004 when it was known as the Nissan Open. They represent two of his eight career titles.

The release noted that defending champion Bill Haas and former winners Phil Mickelson, Robert Allenby, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Charles Howell III, Corey Pavin, Rory Sabbatini and Adam Scott plan to play in this year’s edition, which begins Thursday. But there’s no mention of Weir (except in the release's small print listing all entrants).


Last year, the tournament didn’t offer Weir a sponsor’s exemption into the field despite his champion's status.

He was mired in the worst slump of his career and didn’t have a tour card, and tournaments are under no obligation to invite past champions. But still, it is a custom and many observers (although not Weir publicly) saw it as a slight.

In addition to Weir, the other Canadians in the Northern Trust Open field this week are Stephen Ames, Graham DeLaet and David Hearn.

Canadians Mitch Evanecz, Adam Hadwin, Cory Renfrew and Ryan Yip will try to play their way in at the Monday qualifier. They’re among the 144 players entered at Industry Hills Golf Club who will be vying for four Northern Trust spots.


GANGNAM STYLE: James Hahn has made quite an impression on the PGA Tour this year in his rookie season.

The 31-year-old American has two top-five finishes, including a tie for third place Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

But his finest moment might have been his impromptu Gangnam Style dance on the 16th green at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Feb. 3. Video of his fancy footwork went viral.

Hahn, who was born in South Korea but now calls Alameda, Calif., his home, arrived on the PGA Tour this year after winning on the Web.com Tour and finishing in fifth spot on its money list in 2012.

For PGA Tour Canada followers with good memories, he’s the same James Hahn who played on the Canadian circuit in 2009.

That year, he won twice (at the Telus Edmonton Open and the Riviera Nayarit Classic) and amassed $73,000 in winnings, not far behind the money list winner that year, Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask.


HIP TO BE SQUARE: Brad Fritsch of Ottawa tied for 40th place on his own ball Sunday at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

It was his fourth paycheque in five starts during his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

Fritsch did even better in the pro-am portion of the tournament. Playing with musician Huey Lewis, they tied for third place, just two shots behind the co-winners.


YOU’RE WELCOME: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner Brandt Snedeker had some Canadian assistance: His long-time caddy is Scott Vail of Oshawa, Ont. Runner-up Chris Kirk did, too. On Sunday, he wore a pair of golf shoes (Tenny Clayburns) made by Kikkor, a company based in Abbotsford, B.C., and owned by former amateur star and touring pro James Lepp.


RELATED LINK: More blogs by Jeff Brooke

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