Canadian LPGA veteran Alena Sharp is a darkhorse to reach Rio podium
Hamilton, Ont., native coming off the best season of her 11-year LPGA career
By Nick Murray, CBC Sports
It's been a tough road for LPGA veteran Alena Sharp.
The 35-year-old Canadian battled inner-demons through parts of her career, which she says was fuelled by self-doubt and a grim attitude.
But the Hamilton, Ont., native has revitalized her game, roaring into Rio coming off the best season she's had of her 11-year career. She's set to tee off today at 10:25 a.m., ET.
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While she may not be in the discussion for a podium finish, the world No. 91 is undoubtedly a darkhorse to win a medal, gleaming with confidence and about to play four rounds on a course fit for her game.
"I've been working a lot on my mental game and just believing in myself more. My caddy would notice I'd get really down on myself a lot. So she's a really positive influence as well," Sharp said on her newfound swagger, and subsequently improved game.
"Everybody's always told me 'You have all this talent, why aren't you playing better?' I was trying my best. But you know, sometimes things happen and I didn't have the best attitude, I guess, and didn't believe in myself the way other people would believe in me."
Her confidence is paying off as Sharp has made her last six cuts on the tour this year, narrowly missed a top-10 finish at the Marathon Classic in July and nabbed an eighth-place tie at the Walmart NM Arkansas Championship in June.
Sharp has also been busy this season competing in 19 LPGA events, and sits comfortably in 44th on the LPGA money list this year.
Adding to her confidence is the Olympic Golf Course in Rio that fits her long game. Sharp says to win, 12-under through four rounds might be the score to beat.
"I feel like the long par-4's are going to be playing into my hand because I'm not going to have woods into the green, where other girls might. And I'm a strong iron player and my putting is solid right now," Sharp said.
"Everything is firing on all cylinders right now. We finished playing the British Open a few weeks ago, and I just missed a few putts. I have confidence in every club in my hand and I feel like that's what you need on this golf course."
'A dream come true'
Not lost on Sharp is her new status as an Olympian.
The Olympic stage is said to be larger than any LPGA major, and Sharp is taking the experience one stride at a time.
"I don't see a huge difference; except for we're here with all the other athletes. It's after your done playing it's different," Sharp said.
"You don't just go back to your hotel room, we go back to the athlete's village. You're around all the other athletes eating in the food hall. It's just a great experience. It's nice to have a little bit of a distraction away from the golf when you get done.
"When I was growing up, I'd always watch the Olympics and because I'm a golfer I didn't think I'd get a chance to represent Canada in the Olympics. To be here is just a dream come true, really."