The sun came out and it actually felt like summer during the first round of the Manulife Financial Classic, a far cry from the cool, rainy conditions of earlier in the week, but there were still remnants of the damp spring that has hit the area surrounding Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ont.
“The rough is pretty thick this year because of all the rain.” said Alena Sharp, who hails from nearby Hamilton, adding her focus was keeping it in the fairway.
“It’s playing a little different than last year: It’s a little softer, so I kind of had to change a little bit of clubs off the tee. Like, for instance, No. 7, I was hitting like a hybrid there last year and now I hit a driver today,” said Sharp.
“Standing on the tee you’re like, `Okay, don’t want to hit this through.’ It wasn’t even close to going through, so just little things like that have been different, but really just the greens are a little bit softer, so I wanted to take advantage of my length and how high I hit it and just be really aggressive,” she said.
She did just that, even if her day did begin with a bogey on the 10th hole. She came right back with an eagle on 12, then went bogey-free the rest of the way in firing a six-under 66 that has her tied for sixth, two shots off the lead.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of chance out here today to make birdies. The par fives, I can get to most of them in two,” she said of tripping out of the gate on 10.
“I figured if I could shake that off and I did. I didn’t let it get me and I made a good putt for bogey actually. It could have been a double to start. “You have to shake it off. It’s the first hole of 72,” said Sharp.
“It was steady all day. I played really well on the back nine, started with a bogey and just didn’t let it get me, made an eagle on 12 to get back into red numbers right away,” she added.
“I Just made a lot of key putts today and that kept me going. I made a lot of 6-to-10- footers, which is what I’ve been working on, so it’s nice to see the results come early in the tournament,” said Sharp.
If she is to stay in contention, Sharp realizes she will need similar numbers over the next three rounds. Sunny conditions are expected from now until the end of the tournament, with temperatures rising each day, getting close to 30 C on Sunday.
“I knew the scores were going to be low today because you have a perfect lie if you hit the fairway,” said Sharp.
“I knew I need to do shoot a low round, but you don’t really want to think about a score in your mind. The way I’m hitting it, I knew I was going to have a lot of chances and I took advantage the par-fives. I was five under on those, so that really helped me out,” she said.
“Depending on the wind. I think it’s going to be a low score, but it’s going to firm up as the days go on if the heat comes like they’re predicting it and if we get a little bit of wind, it will dry things out. I don’t think they’re going to put a lot of water on the course anymore,” she said.
“As the days go on it’ll get tougher,” said Sharp.
You can hear what Sharp had to say coming into the tournament in this conversation with Hutch.