Sharp: Well suited for Match Play

LPGA golfer Alena Sharp of Hamilton writes about this week's $1.5-million US Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J., in which birdies and pars matter but total score is irrelevant.

The LPGA Tour stops in Gladstone, N.J., this week for the Sybase Match Play Championship. I am pretty excited to be playing in this tournament as I have never qualified for it before. I qualified a couple of weeks ago through the Avnet Classic, which had a 36-hole qualifier within the tournament for 10 spots for the match play event. The 10 lowest scores not already in Sybase qualified.

I qualified with a dramatic finish in which I birdied the last three holes to make it by two shots. It was definitely a confidence booster for me as I hadn't been putting that well, but I made three 12-15 footers coming home.

It's been a tough year sitting around waiting for each tournament to arrive. Our schedule is awful, probably the worst in LPGA history. A lot of our troubles is due to the poor economy. We have a great product right now with a lot of young talent from across the globe, but we still continue to struggle to find new sponsorship in the United States.

The PGA Tour has already played 18 events, had two weeks where there was a limited field, and had another tournament for the guys who weren't in the limited field, whereas the LPGA Tour has had just three full-field events and six total tournaments. Our next full-field event isn't until the beginning of June, so if you aren't in the Top 70 or if you're a tour rookie, you aren't playing a lot of golf in 2011. 

It is sad, but all we can do is hope that it will get better. It definitely is hard to get into a groove and get some consistency. It seems like we're always trying to get the rust off. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I've played five events so far and I'm in all the majors. I've only had two weeks off, whereas most other players are going to have had four weeks off before the next event.

Due to the lack of events, I've looked elsewhere to play in our weeks off, ie. the Cactus Tour, CN Canadian Women's Tour, etc. I plan to play next month's CN Tour event at Blue Springs in Acton, Ont., and the CPGA Championship at Bayview in Thornhill, Ont., just to get tournament competition in. And quite a few of my friends went to European Tour qualifying school last year so they can play tournaments in Europe in between all our stops and starts on the LPGA Tour.

'Had success in match play'

This week will be interesting.

The weather forecast looks dreadful. Hopefully, Mother Nature will play in our favour. The course at Hamilton Farm is amazing and I'm sure it is in fantastic shape.

And, of course, we're playing match play, which is a very fun format that is dependent on strategy. I've played in many match play events as an amateur — the U.S. Junior and Amateur and the Toronto Star, to name two. I've had success in match play — I won the Toronto Star twice — but I haven't played a single match as a professional. 

I like match play. You have to know when to be aggressive and when to be conservative. If you have a bad hole, it doesn't matter because one's total score is irrelevant. I definitely make a lot of pars and birdies and that's exactly what you need to do to be successful, especially the birdie part!

I've been working hard on my swing these past couple of weeks. I'm still working on my backswing and getting more wrist cock at the start of my backswing. It definitely isn't easy making a swing change when you've swung a certain way for so many years. You just have to constantly keep at it. I thought I had it, so I stopped working on it, but I slipped back into old habits and learned the hard way to continue to do my drills.

I didn't strike the ball very well at the Avnet Classic, but I putted well. Go figure. Golf is just a silly game sometimes.

I'm hoping that both the putting and the long game will come together this week, so I can win some matches.