LPGA Tour Team Canada

Alena Sharp’s long Olympic wait is finally over

Alena Sharp (Golf Canada/Chuck Russell)

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – After every LPGA tournament this season Alena Sharp checked the world Rolex rankings with one thing on her mind: the Rio Olympics.

The Hamilton golfer finally qualified to represent Canada on Sunday after finishing the U.S. Women’s Open in a tie for 21st, putting her at 91st in the world and clinching her trip to Brazil for the Games.

“I’ve been watching (thee rankings) every week and knew that maybe a couple of weeks ago that it was probably mathematically impossible to not be on the team,” said Sharp, who will join world No. 2 Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., as Canada’s women’s pairing. “Last night the rankings came out early and it was obviously done that I was the second Canadian.

“I figured it out on my own, but I kind of knew.”

The U.S. Women’s Open was the final tournament to determine who would qualify for next month’s Olympics. The top 15 players in the world rankings – including Henderson -are all eligible with a limit of four for any country. South Korea – which has five – is the only country with more than two players currently in the top 15. The rest of the 60-player field was determined by the world rankings with a limit of two players per country.

The 35-year-old Sharp, as the second highest ranked Canadian, guaranteed her trip to Rio with a career-best showing at a major event. She shot a 72 on Sunday to finish tied for 21st at 1-over.

“I think (the Olympics) is the top of my career thus far,” said Sharp, who flew from San Martin, Calif., to Toronto on a red-eye flight late Sunday night. “Being able to represent Canada in Rio is something that two years ago was kind of in the back of mind. I knew I had to play well to get ahead, and I did that last year.

“To be standing here on July 11, and the day’s finally here, to be on the team is an amazing thing.”

Sharp was in Cambridge as part of a media day for the LPGA’s Manulife Classic which she, Henderson, world No. 1 Lydia Ko and a full field of other pro golfers will compete in Aug. 31-Sept. 4. Sharp also participated in a charity challenge, taking shots across the Grand River, with each ball she hit on target earning the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation $10,000. Along with three amateurs, Sharp earned the charity $103,000.

“It was a little pressure having people watch me, but I did well on the par-3s this week at the U.S. Open, so I’m like ‘oh, it’s just like a par 3’,” said Sharp, who used a nine iron to make the 135-yard shot from one side of the gorge to another.

Henderson and Sharp will have even more pressure on them in Rio.

Women’s golf was not an event in 1904, but George Lyon of Richmond Hill, Ont., won golf in the men’s individual at the St. Louis Olympics, with Americans winning the other individual medals and all three team medals.

“I know (Brooke’s) only thinking about one thing – the gold medal,” said Sharp. “I think it’s going to be good to play practice rounds together so we can get the course mapped out to win the tournament.

“She has a lot of positive energy. She’s 18, she’s fearless. Seeing that, you kind of feed off of it.”