Londoner retraces golf roots

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Jessica Shepley's life comes full circle this week at the Canadian Women's Open.

Shepley, 23, is playing in her first LPGA tournament in her hometown, just blocks from where she grew up in London.

The Shepleys -- father Brett, mother Lori and brother Zack -- lived about two kilometres from the London Hunt and Country Club, behind John Dearness public school on Chalfont Road.

Shepley took her first golf lesson from Ron Bannerman at a driving range on Oxford Street.

She was only nine when she played in first junior golf event, the Les Thomas Memorial tournament.

Dad said she shot 173 and 182 and withdrew with sunstroke during the third round.

The last time she competed in London was in the Ontario Amateur at Highland a few years ago, where she finished second to Kingsville's Laura Matthews (Henderson).

Matthews is also playing this week, receiving an exemption as the 2005 Canadian Amateur winner.

"It all started here," Brett Shepley said yesterday. "It's great we are all back here."

The Shepleys now live in Oakville but are in London for the tournament.

Brett Shepley grew up in Chatham and his wife, Lori, is from London. Their son, Zach, plays in the Ontario Hockey League for Plymouth Whalers.

The Shepleys lived in London from 1990 until 1994.

Shepley earned an exemption into the Canadian Women's Open based on her play in tour events on the Canadian Tour. She finished fourth and fifth in tournaments in Barrie and Ottawa.

Shepley is considered one of Canada's top prospects. Her golf coach is Sandra Post. Her mentor is Canadian golf legend Marlene Streit.

A recipient of a Marlene Streit Award when she was 14, Shepley was among a group of teenage girls Streit hand-picked to attend some tournaments in United States.

Not only is Shepley carrying London's flag in the tournament, she's giving something back to London today.

Shepley is holding a one-hour golf clinic on behalf of GoodLife Kids Foundation at 9:15 a.m. at the Forest Glen Golf Centre on Oxford Street.

It's the same range where she received her first lesson.


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