Sharp: European vacation ends with Evian Masters

LPGA golfer Alena Sharp of Hamilton writes about pro golf being as mentally taxing as it is physical. Her solution? A European vacation ahead of this week's Evian Masters in southeastern France.

I have been over in Europe for almost a week now. My mother's side of the family is from Belgium and I have been here prior to this past visit. My relatives are from Oostkamp, just outside of Brussels. I actually got to do some sightseeing while I was in Belgium. The city of Bruges is one of the oldest cities in Europe. We walked around and looked at a lot of old buildings and churches, notably the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, a marble sculpture of Mary and Jesus and supposedly the only piece of his art to leave Italy in his lifetime. It truly was amazing to see Bruges and all of its old buildings and cobblestone pathways. Astonishing. We definitely don't have architecture like that in North America.

My best friend, Beth Bader, and I were lucky to have so much info passed onto us from my Aunt Elly and Uncle Paul. They've learned so much about Bruges that they should be professional tour guides. The visit to Oostkamp was special because my grandmother's birthday was this past week. Uncle Paul had the brilliant idea of trying to get together as many family members as possible to celebrate her 90th. I must admit that I met more second and third cousins this past week than I ever thought that I had. The only downside of the visit was mom and dad weren't there.

Beth and I flew then from Brussels to Evian, France, and, on the way, the airline misplaced our luggage — all four bags, which is crazy as we were already in Europe. It put a damper on my plans as I had hoped to play at least eight or nine holes on Monday. Fortunately, we received all of our bags, albeit extremely late Monday night, but we're both happy that we our belongings, including our golf clubs. I played a practice round Tuesday and, though the majority of holes were played in the rain, it was a good practice. I hadn't touched my clubs since the Saturday of the U.S. Open. A rest was needed and it was easy for me as I travelled from Colorado to Arizona to Florida and then, of course, to Europe.

It was actually tough for me to take more than a week off before big purse events like the Evian Masters and the British Women's Open, but it was just what I needed. Sometimes, being a professional golfer is more mentally taxing than physical and, to be honest, I was just burnt out — so the nine or 10 days off was great for me and my game because I wanted to be out there Tuesday playing my practice round. I played 11 holes in the rain and didn't mind it one bit. I just enjoyed the course and scenery.

The Evian Masters is a special event on the LPGA schedule. It is one of the biggest prize money events of the season ($3.25 million US). At the same time, it At the same time, the golf course isn't a major style of golf course, but some of the other courses we play on in majors aren't either. We get more crowds in Canada and the United States to follow our tournaments, but it is nice to have the people of France supporting the LPGA. I know I'm biased, but I believe, in my heart, that CN puts on one of the best tournaments of the year. CN tries to switch the venue up and have the tournament all across Canada, the hospitality is some of the best on tour and we have a great crowd that supports the Canadian Open wherever it is played. 

People say that a fifth major is a silly concept. But in my mind, I only have two majors — the U.S. Open and the Canadian Open. To me, golf is golf, wherever we are. I know that there may be more points and more prize money at certain events. But really, what determines which event is a major? I feel lucky in such uncertain economic times for the LPGA to be signing new tournaments, especially the new one in Waterloo! Thanks to Manulife Financial for believing in and supporting the LPGA.