Hamilton's Sharp a rising star

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Quick, who's the top Canadian on the LPGA money list this year?

Who's the top Canadian in the Canadian Women's Open?

Unless you're from Hamilton, home of Alena Sharp, you probably said Lorie Kane.

It's understandable. Kane is the most accomplished female player this country's seen in a long, long time. Great person, great ambassador.

But if we're talking about right here, right now, then the 26-year-old from the Steel City is the one to watch.

She shot a one-under 70 in her opening round at the Royal Mayfair yesterday, which had her tied for 17th.

"Yeah, I'm happy with it," said Sharp, who had three birdies and two bogeys, and just missed a nine footer for birdie on her 18th hole.

"I'm very happy with the way I started. It's nerve-racking the first day of the Canadian Open being a Canadian, so I'm very happy."

There probably aren't many people outside of Hamilton who've even heard of Alena Sharp, but all that could change in a hurry. Fresh off a T23 finish at the British Open, she's playing the best golf of her pro career. She's 69th in LPGA money, making her Canada's top money winner, with $103,000 (Kane is 95th).

Now, she's ready to focus on taking the next step in her evolution.

"I'm confident, everything is coming together," she said.

"I'm hitting the ball well, putting well. I feel confident. Playing well at the British just gives me more confidence.

"My year has gone a lot better this year compared to last year.

"I learned a lot last year, and now I'm playing golf the way I should be, not playing to make the cut.

"My ball striking has gotten a lot better this year. I've got my putting going a lot better now. I can see something great coming, and hopefully it'll be this week."

She has excelled everywhere she's played. Sharp's a two-time Ontario junior champion (1997-98) and 1999 Ontario Ladies champion, and she won a conference championship at New Mexico State University.

All that's left to conquer is the big leagues.

"It's great to play amongst some great players out here like Lorie Kane and Dawn Coe-Jones," she said.

"They swept the way for Canadian golf, and I hope that I can continue the tradition and keep it going and get some younger players to come up and follow in my footsteps."

KANE FALLS BACK

Kane has some catching up to do after an opening round 75. She says she's striking the ball OK, just not scoring well.

"That's kind of the way it's been for a while," she said.

"I was joking earlier, I don't want to sound too Tigerish, but if I clean up a couple of things I know I have a low number."

CANADIAN TRAIL

Other Canadians in the field: Cindy Pasechnik (74), Stephanie Sherlock (82), Lisa Meldrum (73), Christine Boucher (80), Kim Brozer (74), Dawn Coe-Jones (74), A.J. Eathorne (73), Marie Josee Rouleau (75), Nancy Harvey (72), Jade Polonich (84) and Kira Meixner (77).


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