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Veteran Sharp ready for another Olympics

Alena Sharp Alena Sharp - The Canadian Press

Alena Sharp is heading back to the Olympics, and this time she’s out to prove something.

On Monday, Sharp was named to the Canadian team along with Brooke Henderson. It marks the third consecutive time the two will play at the Games.

For Henderson, the 14th-ranked player in the world, there was no surprise. She’s been Canada’s best golfer, male or female, for some time now. She finished tied for seventh at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and was 29th in Tokyo in 2021.

But Sharp, from Hamilton, Ont., was not a lock and had to wait until Sunday evening to ensure she made the team. Close behind was Maddie Szeryk, who ended up a few points behind in the race for the second spot after finishing seventh in an Epson Tour event on the weekend.

“I’m super excited,” stated Sharp. “It was a huge goal of mine and I put in a lot of work to make this happen.”

The Canadian players were chosen using the Rolex Rankings. Over the past few weeks of eligible tournaments, Sharp was ahead by a small margin and admitted that the pressure of trying to make the Olympic team took a toll.

She played well the first two rounds at the ShopRite Classic, but a final-round 75 dropped her into a tie for 52nd. The next week at the Meijer Classic, she started well again, but was a combined eight over on the weekend and ended up tied for 80th. At the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, rounds of 79 and 80 gave her the weekend off and two days of waiting to see if she would qualify for a third Olympics.

“I knew the ball was in my court and I played terribly,” Sharp admitted. “The last few weeks I hit the ball worse than I had all year. I think making it to Paris was on my mind.”

Szeryk and Sharp met up at the Dow Championship, this week’s LPGA Tour event, where the two embraced and Szeryk wished Sharp well.

Henderson also texted her teammate to congratulate her and set up a meeting to share resources. The duo’s caddies, Brittany Henderson, Brooke’s sister, and Sarah Bowman, Sharp’s wife, will form a quartet that will map out a game plan for taking on Le Golf National, the host course. It’s best known as site of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

With the qualifying behind her, Sharp is now focused on trying to improve on her past two Olympic appearances. In her first visit in Rio, she finished 30th and in Tokyo she wound up in 49th spot. Neither of those performances were satisfactory, and she wants to play better.

“The last few weeks have been rough,” said Sharp, who won a bronze medal at the 2023 Pan Am Games. “But now hopefully I can get back to the way I’ve been playing. My game is in a good spot and I’m going to be like a goldfish and have a short memory.”

Already this week, while practising for the Dow Championship, she’s felt as if she’s regaining her confidence. The swing that she’s worked exceptionally hard at the past year has returned to form, and she’s found a more relaxed attitude on the course.

At 43, Sharp knows her career is winding down. Most weeks, she’s the oldest player in the field and keeping up with the young guns of today’s LPGA Tour isn’t easy. But she’s determined to go out on her own terms and not be forced to retire. She can still hit it out there with most golfers and the rest of her game is not lacking. She remains determined from the first tee to the 18th hole.

No matter when that day comes when she looks back on her career, the Olympics will be a major achievement and something she will cherish.

“I love playing for Canada and wearing red and white,” said Sharp. “There’s really nothing better.”