Shepley taking aim at LPGA

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Those who lament the low number of Canadians playing on the LPGA Tour might want to keep an eye on Oakville's Jessica Shepley, who was runner-up at the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship on the Duramed Futures Tour a week ago.

They should also keep tabs on 17-year-old Sue Kim, who won a playoff last week to take the first leg of this year's CN Canadian Women's Tour. The amateur from Langley, B.C., earns a ticket into this year's CN Canadian Women's Open in Ottawa, but Shepley, 25, is closer to full-time play on tour.

The former Ontario Amateur champion shot a 70 in the final round at the Kansas City event to finish four shots off the lead, but her second- place finish launched Shepley up the money list from 46th to 11th place.

If the season were to end today, the former University of Tennessee standout would have a direct ticket into the final stage of LPGA qualifying school. The top five on the Futures Tour money list earn their LPGA Tour cards for 2009, so that is a carrot dangling in front of Shepley.

"We're only a third of the way through the season, so at this point, I'm not even thinking about the end of the season," Shepley said. "That's one of my biggest goals is to stay in the present. Thinking about the final part of it right now is probably one of the silliest things that I or any player can do.

"Hopefully, my name is still up there, but that's not my main focus," said Shepley, who started the season with a tie for sixth in Lakeland, Fla.

Her other top-20 finish of the season came at the beginning of May in El Paso, Tex., so things are looking up after she finished 48th on the 2007 Futures Tour money list

At the Lakeland event, a second-round 78 was sandwiched by scores of 68 and 69. At El Paso, the damage was done by an opening round of 77 that was offset by a 67 and 71. In Kansas City, she stayed relatively consistent, following a 74 with a pair of 70s.

"I think the first thing is you start seeing yourself shooting those low scores and then putting them together," she said.

"I haven't had the best couple of years and I think now that I'm starting to shoot those scores again, it's really helping my confidence.

"I just have to figure out how to keep those bad rounds down to a 72, 73, 74 instead of letting them creep up into the high 70s."

Shepley said she did some soul-searching over the winter.

"I just sat back and tried to figure out what was important to me and what I wanted and what I needed to do and what I'd been not doing or doing incorrectly," she said.

"I guess getting my college years and some of that stuff behind me and deciding that I wanted to do more things with my life, I was going to have to change some of the things I was doing in order to make improvements. That was a big part of the winter."

That inward look may make the summer even more enjoyable.

THE SHORT GAME

We will get a look at where the Royal Canadian Golf Association is headed this week when the RCGA unveils its long-awaited strategic plan. The plan has been a focus for executive director Scott Simmons since he took office almost a year ago. A draft document was tabled at the RCGA's annual general meeting earlier this year and the final document is expected to concentrate on junior golf, player development, revenue sources and the RCGA's own internal structure ... The FBR Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., is party central when that PGA Tour event is held early each season and is renowned for its beer tents, bars and loud galleries. While the FBR tends to go over the top at times, the RBC Canadian Open is expected to announce today that it will introduce a toned-down version to add a more festive flair to the tournament. Concerts and community involvement are expected to take the Open beyond golf. Some name players also are expected to be announced for this year's field at Glen Abbey. There is also a possibility that St. George's could be named the site of the 2010 Open ... The Winnipeg stop on the Canadian Tour has been rebranded as The Players Cup, with a purse of $200,000 and an exemption into the Canadian Open available ... The LPGA and Nationwide tours will be represented when Hamilton's Alena Sharp and Brantford's David Hearn lead a clinic for at-risk youth in Peel Region prior to the RBC Insurance Charity Golf Classic at Milton's Rattlesnake Point today. With proceeds going to the Peel Children's Aid Foundation, Olympians such as freestyle skier Jeff Bean and women's hockey team members Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford, Becky Kellar and Cheryl Pounder also will be on hand.


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