It may only be February, but Hamilton’s Alena Sharp is feeling much better about the season ahead than she did a year ago.
Playing with limited LPGA Tour status in 2013, Sharp played in just a dozen events, but added eight more on the Symetra Tour, where she earned five top-10s, including three second-place finishes.
That helped her finish ninth on the Symetra Tour’s money list, which earned her full-time status once again on the LPGA Tour for 2014, which at least gave her a lot more stability, which she’s taking advantage of so early this year.
At the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in late January, she tied for 18th, but missed the cut at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
With the tour in Thailand on the weekend, Sharp played closer to her home in Phoenix at the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club in nearby Mesa, Az., where Sharp looked completely at home for the most part in taking her first Symetra Tour win.
“I feel a lot better about everything,” she said of the season ahead.
“I’m not worried so much, like I was last year at the get-go. I’m in a better position because last year, I had no idea what I was playing in, I had to make money to keep playing the rest of the year,” said Sharp.
“I was in a status where I was going to get shuffled out if I didn’t make any money. This year, I just feel a lot more confident. I’m not going to get shuffled out and I know where I’m playing. It’s nice to know instead of, `Well, I could play here or I could play there,’” she said.
“My short game is really good. My putting is better than it’s been the last four years and my ball-striking is consistent. I’m hitting a lot of greens again, so it’s like I’m back to where I was in 2007 when I had my best year,” said Sharp.
“Then, add on experience and more mental toughness and it looks like a really good year,” she added.
She did need mental toughness at times during the final round in Mesa on Sunday, when she birdied the first hole, but then made three consecutive bogeys to drop to nine under.
She did steady the ship by the turn after birdies on eight and nine and wound up shooting a one-under 71 to go along with the 67-66 scores she posted in the first two round.
‘I came out and started making putts right away. I didn’t hit the ball very well the first five or six holes on Friday, but got into the round and started hitting it better,” said Sharp.
“I made a lot of putts on Friday and Saturday and struck the ball really well. I got into the zone on Friday after five or six holes and played really well on Saturday,” said Sharp, whose double bogey on the third hole Saturday was her only blemish in the first two rounds.
“It’s a big confidence boost. I played well in the Bahamas. I actually played well in Australia. I just didn’t make any putts and nothing went in the hole,” she said.
“I’ve worked hard on every part of my game – long game putting, chipping, physical training and mental, so it’s all come together really nicely,” said Sharp, whose next event is the LPGA Founders Cup next month in Phoenix.
“I wish we had an LPGA event next week,” she said.