Jennifer Kirby stacks up with LPGA pros | Golf | CBC Sports

GolfJennifer Kirby stacks up with LPGA pros

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | 11:50 AM

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Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., will be competing in the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo in Waterloo, Ont. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press) Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., will be competing in the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo in Waterloo, Ont. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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Lorie Kane, Alena Sharp and 21-year-old Jennifer Kirby sat at the podium in the media centre Tuesday at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont., each representing different phases of the Canadian women's golf scene.

Three women sat at the podium in the media centre Tuesday at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont., each representing different phases of the Canadian women's golf scene.

First, there was Charlottetown's Lorie Kane, who, with apologies to Sandra Post, is likely the country's most successful female touring professional. Next to Kane was Hamilton's Alena Sharp, currently Canada's best player and seeking that elusive breakthrough win on the LPGA circuit.

On the right, sat amateur Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., who, along with rookie pro Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., also competing this week at Grey Silo, represents Canada's future hopes on the LPGA Tour.

In a fitting twist, Sharp and Kirby both honed their game at nearby Brantford Golf and Country Club -- a classic, old course that, along with Vancouver's Marine Drive, is probably Canada's most successful club at producing elite players.

"When you go into the junior girls' locker room, you walk past a photo of Alena," said an admiring Kirby, 21.

Kane was the last Canadian to win an LPGA event 11 years ago, but the 47-year-old veteran is optimistic the next Canuck victory is not far away.

"These younger players, as Canadians, we can win," Kane said. "We need to believe that more and take it to the golf course and, as Sean Foley [Kane and Kirby's swing coach] says to me, 'Go out there and see how you stack up because that's what it is.'"

Kirby is fresh off a career highlight -- helping the University of Alabama win a national collegiate championship. 

"When you win for your team in a national setting, it was incredible," she said. "It is the icing on the cake for a good year for me and our team." 

The NCAA title came after her Crimson Tide teammates blew a chance to win the national title in 2011.

"Last year, we went in ranked [high] and, kind of, fell off the map," she said. "This year, it was about peaking at the right time."

There were some tense moments in the 2012 NCAA finals as Kirby double-bogeyed her final hole and had the potential to wear the goat horns because she had put teammate Brooke Pancake in position to either win it or lose it on the tournament's final hole.

Kirby, who finished 14th in individual scoring, exhaled as Pancake saved par with a two-putt from 60 feet to secure a one-shot win over the University of Southern California.

"I was going to cry if she made it or cry if she missed it ... I told [Pancake] that she owes me for all the [good] media coverage," Kirby said with a laugh.

Tears of joy having passed, Kirby, who is likely in her final, full season of amateur golf, admitted that she had thoughts of turning pro after last season's disappointing finish at Alabama.

"There were some times last year when I thought about [going pro]," she said. "But I've come this far [her senior year] and, another year, I won't be wasting any time and I have a lot to work on."

'I CAN HIT IT PRETTY FAR'

The work in front of her this week in Waterloo is trying to post her first solid finish in an LPGA event. Kirby has twice qualified for both the U.S. Women's Open and the Canadian Women's Open, but missed the cut in all four outings.

"I can hit it pretty far," she said in reference to trying to take apart Grey Silo's reachable par-fives. "But really, it's about playing my game this week, playing my best and not to have any regrets."

Aside from perhaps a U.S. amateur crown -- she reached the semifinals two years ago -- there isn't a lot left for Kirby to accomplish in college or amateur golf after the NCAA victory and her stellar season of three years ago, when she won virtually every Canadian title.

Asked if she allows herself to project how she would stack up against some of the better players in the world, Kirby replied that it's a bit too early to start thinking that way, but did offer this insight:

"It's not so much [comparing] myself to the veteran players," she said. "But there are a lot of younger girls that I know that are now on the LPGA Tour that I know I can compete with.

"The difference is short game. Everyone can hit it far ... [succeeding] as a professional is more about mental focus."

The Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo in Waterloo, Ont., runs Thursday through Sunday. And The LPGA circuit crosses the border again in two months with the CN Canadian Women's Open at Vancouver Golf Club on Aug. 23.

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