Canada's Shepley raising eyebrows in LPGA events

Lorie Kane is Canada's most recognizable female golfer, but Peter Robinson writes that Jessica Shepley may be its most successful heading into the 2011 CPGA Women's Championship at Toronto.

Canada's most successful golfer of either gender headlines this week's field in the Canadian PGA Women's Championship at Bayview Golf and Country Club just north of Toronto. No, not Lorie Kane.

Canada's most successful player the past few seasons — if tournament wins is the sole barometre — is Jessica Shepley.

The 28-year-old from Oakville, Ont., has won four tournaments in the past two calendar years, starting with her maiden professional victory at the same event almost exactly two years ago. 

"That's the goal, another 'W,'" Shepley said of her plans this week, though she admits she is feeling a bit run down and is looking forward to some time off. 

Shepley Shorts

Age: 28

Hometown: Oakville, Ont.

Residence: Orlando, Fla.

Fast Facts:

— Posted first LPGA Futures Tour win in The International at Concord (N.H.) on July 24.

— Has three Canadian Tour wins in 2009 (Dundas, Ont.), in 2010 (Richmond, B.C.) and in 2011 (Squamish, B.C.).

— Enjoyed breakout season in 2008 with five Top 10 finishes on Futures Tour, including two seconds and T3.

— Working with Sean Foley, Tiger Woods' swing coach, but also is spending time with another Canadian instructor, Annie Mallory.

"Sean is great, but he has a lot of guys [on his roster] … it's nice to have someone who can see me in competition."

— Was an Olympic torch bearer in December 2009.

— Her brother, Zack, was a defenceman on the 2007 OHL champion Plymouth Whalers.

Shepley is a conditional LPGA member and is coming off two made cuts in the past two weeks on the big circuit, highlighted by last week's low-Canadian honours (T45) at the CN Canadian Women's Open in Mirabel, Que.

A week earlier, she tied for 53rd at the LPGA's Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore. 

Shepley's improved play of late follows a largely indifferent stretch in the early summer months after her victory on the CN Canadian Women's Tour in the spring — a trend she has followed for four seasons. 

Shepley first teamed with instructor Sean Foley in 2008 and began piling up high finishes on the Futures Tour, coming within a hair's breadth of gaining fully-exempt LPGA status by finishing sixth on that circuit's money list.

Having missed out on a full card by a single placing, Shepley didn't get many playing opportunities, especially with the economic downtown drastically reducing the LPGA schedule.

Instead, Shepley focused on her home circuit and started to dominate, winning three times in a little more than a year — starting in 2009 when she won the CPGA with a birdie on the final hole.

Two victories followed in 2010 and then the aforementioned win earlier this year.

The wins were important for her bank account and for her confidence because, to that point, she had difficulty closing the deal, dating back to her days in amateur and college golf. 

The problem, of course, is that Shepley's best showing on the LPGA Tour in that same span was last week's T45 in Mirabel.

In other words, success on the junior circuits hasn't quite translated into a full-time gig on the big stage.

"This is a process," she said of the quest to break into the tour full-time.

"I [often] have people ask when [a break-through] will come, they ask me if I'm going to quit ... [and] I'm, like, 'No.' I understand that I'm not in my early 20s anymore, but it still takes time. Lorie [Kane] was 29 before she started full-time out here."

After this week, Shepley's focus will turn to a vital two-week stretch in September, when she will have to make the cut and earn at least one decent paycheque in order to move up the LPGA money list.

Shepley is currently 118th overall with a little under $16,000 US in winnings, though she has pocketed almost twice that from her two non-LPGA victories this season. 

"Right now, I just want to play well and not to have to worry about next year," she said, noting that high finishes in September might earn her a spot on the LPGA's lucrative international swing later in the fall. 

"If I have to go to Q-school [in December], that's fine, too."