Sharp: Winning the CPGA Women's Championship

LPGA golfer Alena Sharp of Hamilton writes about how she won and what it meant to win the CPGA Women's Championship in a dramatic two-day, eight-hole playoff.

 Last week, I played in the CPGA Women's Championship at Bayview Golf and Country Club just north of Toronto.

Talk about a very successful two-and-a-half days for me: I won the tournament in an eight-hole playoff.

Back in 2003, when I first turned pro, my first event was the CPGA at Bayview. It was a rough one as I shot 80 the first day … not the best debut round as a professional.

I used that as motivation to play well at Bayview this time around. I missed the cut in the Canadian Women's Open at Mirabel, Que., the previous week and was a little down because I had been playing and thinking much better on the course. I had a brief chat with Chris Dorris, my mental coach, and he reminded me to stick to the present, to have fun — and that's exactly what I did.

I got off to a sizzling start with birdies on the opening three holes. I don't think I've done that in my career. I've had a string of three or more birdies in the middle of the round, but never at the very start. It was so much fun. I relaxed and played without putting pressure or stress on myself to shoot low. 

I shot 6-under par that first day.

Golf was simple again and, might I stress, fun.

I led by two shots heading into the second and final round when we experienced a two-hour weather delay. It was looking grim to actually get out and play the round, but eventually we teed off and  I enjoyed a solid day of ball striking and putting. Putts were hanging on the edge, but I didn't try to force anything or get frustrated. Instead, I kept my cool and kept reminding myself how fun it was to be in the lead. Basically, I held the lead all day until a silly bogey on the 15th. But it didn’t rattle me. I knew that I still had some holes left to get it back. I didn't know that some others ahead of me were lighting it up.

'Didn't let it get to me'

There weren't many updated leaderboards. But my dad told me an amateur was at 7-under. At the time, I was 6-under and hung a putt on the lip on No. 16. But I didn't let it get to me. I made a great two-putt for par on No. 17 and, standing on the 18th, I knew what I needed to do — to stay present and in to the shot at hand. I killed my drive, dead on target, and had a perfect number for a pitching wedge. The ball pitched about five yards past the pin and sucked back (it almost went in) to about four inches. What a way to finish — one under on the day and headed to a playoff.

And what a playoff it was.

When I holed out on the 18th, it was already getting fairly dark, and my opponent, 17-year-old amateur Ana Kim, seemed fearless and not nervous at all. Me? I had great chances on the first two playoff holes, but failed to sink a putt. We were onto our fifth playoff hole when it started to get pretty dark, tough to see. I had a 45-foot putt for birdie and left it four feet short. Not an easy putt in the dark. Ana nearly jarred hers, so I just calmed down and told myself this is so much fun, I get to make this and extend it to the next hole. I hit an awesome putt dead-centre. 

Our sixth playoff hole was extremely dark — if it was the LPGA, we would have stopped — but we continued on. Both of us hit great shots but couldn't even see them land on the green. Ana left her putt really short and I drilled mine five feet past. We made our next shots and they called the playoff due to darkness.

I was quite surprised when they said we'd be coming back to finish in the morning. I had assumed they would simply call it co-champions. We had to change our plans and my caddie, Missy, had to change her flight.

'I was so wired'

I was so wired I couldn't sleep that night, just couldn't believe I hit that terrific shot on the 18th in regulation to force a playoff. As it turned out, it back to the 18th on Friday morning and I hit a great shot to about 12 feet. Ana hit hers short, then left a long putt 15 feet short. But she drained the next putt and mine lipped out, so off to the eighth playoff hole we went.

Ana's drive missed the green and I hit mine to about 30 feet. She didn't have the greatest bunker shot, either. After I tapped in for par, Ana missed hers to hand me the trophy.

I've been in a few playoffs, albeit not for eight holes. It was a grind. But I loved every minute of it. Waking up Friday to continue the playoff was fun for me. I just treated it as match play. Nor was I at all tired from not sleeping well — I was running on adrenaline and Tim Hortons coffee! 

This win was huge for me. I played so well both days. I putted like a rock star — basically, making every putt from eight feet in. It has done wonders for my confidence. I'm going to take the same mental state into this week's Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark. 

Remember, there is no urgency in any shot. Just stay in the present — and enjoy. After all, golf is only a game.