Sharp: 'Life is too short to be obsessed with golf'

LPGA Tour veteran Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ont., writes about how she has turned to fun pursuits like hockey and skiing to help offset the pressures associated with playing women's professional golf.

As I write this, I am on my way to Singapore for the HSBC Women's Champions tournament. I'm very excited to start my 2011 LPGA season. I have been working hard on my game the last month and a half.

I've had a couple of months off since our last event, which was the first week of December. During my down time, I usually don't touch a club for about three weeks. I play hockey every winter in Phoenix with a great group of girls. I grew up playing hockey, so it's nice to get out and skate and meet new people who aren't in the golf world.

As with everything in my life, I'm very competitive and, even though it's a fun league, we want to win. Playoffs are coming up in two weeks and then hockey will be done until October. I'm excited as my parents will be down in Phoenix for my golf tournament (LPGA Founders Cup at Wildfire) and we'll still be playing hockey. My mom hasn't seen me play hockey in a very long time.

Hello, I'm Alena Sharp

I'm from Hamilton, Ont., and currently reside in Chandler, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. I'm a proud Canadian and play on the LPGA Tour. I started playing golf when I was 10 years old [and] from the very beginning, I had to work very hard at my game as nothing came easy. At every level, I started as a small fish in a big pond and worked my way up to being a big fish. I was ready to turn pro when I graduated from New Mexico State University in the fall of 2003, but it wasn't easy starting out. I failed at qualifying school twice before getting my full LPGA Tour Card at the end of 2005. I'm now heading into my ninth year as a pro and sixth season on the LPGA. I love my career and find myself very fortunate — there aren't too many people that get to play professional golf and travel the world for a living.

I turn 30 on March 7 and, until last year, I'd never been skiing. Most of you are thinking, 'Wow, that's pretty silly. An injury could wreck her career.' But I want to live my life and have fun, so I went to Steamboat, Colo. It was such a beautiful ski town and the hill was amazing. For me, skiing is such a rush — and a great workout. I relate it to skating and have become pretty good at it. I plan to take a ski trip every winter from now on.

As you can tell, I love to have fun during my downtime. Life is too short to be obsessed with golf 24/7.

I've not always had this mentality. It's evolved since I've been on tour, and one of the main reasons why I take time off and why I always feel energized and recharged when I get back to swinging a club.

This past off-season, I made some swing changes on my takeaway and backswing. My backswing was a little disconnected from my body and, therefore, when I would get nervous, I would hit too many errant shots — mainly fades or blocks to the right. I have to feel more wrist cock at the beginning of my swing and do less lifting of the club.

I believe that making these changes will land me in the winner's circle.

It hasn't been easy and it isn't perfect yet. But I am to the point where I know I can perform well. This change will continue to get better as the year goes on, with more repetition and playing under pressure. 

I feel like the rest of my game is on track, too, in comparison to last year. Putting has held me back the past couple of years. But not this year. I started working with putting guru Dave Stockton Jr. at the beginning of 2010, and I now have a solid routine which I stick with on every putt, no matter if I'm putting for birdie or bogey.

I'm very confident with my putting and, with my short game on track, I'm very prepared going into this week in Singapore. I played a mini-tour (Cactus Tour) event last week and won it. I shot some fantastic numbers — 66-66-69 — and won by four strokes. I plan on using that momentum this week in Singapore and have an excellent start to the LPGA season. It was a great confidence boost and, mentally, I now have complete trust in everything I've worked on.

Confidence builds when you can be successful under new changes.