PLAYING FOR FAMILY
Alena Sharp pulled out her yardage book on the second hole and nearly burst into tears. Her caddie always sneaks in a message or quote to consider during the round on her yardage book to help frame her perspective or motivate her, but this time a photo covered the yardage book.
It depicted her at this event last year with the 18-year-old girl that she’s playing for these days. The one who should have been standing to her right off of the tee as her standard bearer like each of the previous nine years that she played this tournament. Instead, Erin Lynch, who has become like Sharp’s “little sister” in the nine years since she first started staying with Erin’s family every year at this tournament, is still in the hospital recovering from a traumatic brain injury that occurred when she was involved in a head-on collision a month and a half ago.
Sharp’s texted back and forth with her parents every day since the accident for updates, and she had the hashtag #TeamErin stitched on her shirts since she first heard of the accident and she came to Toledo three weeks ago to see the family and check on Erin in the hospital. She then got to see her again on Wednesday night before her first round, and they were going back after the round was over.
“We started doing Team Erin basically right after ShopRite. We just started calling it Team Erin,” Sharp said. “She’s
definitely changed a little bit from two weeks ago when I was here before I went to Arkansas. She wasn’t as alert with her eyes and now she is. She’s getting more emotion and moving her right arm and right leg more. So it’s slow
progress. It’s just going to take a long time.”
Erin’s parents have been a 24-7 mainstay by her side in the hospital since the accident, but they got to get a way for a bit Thursday to follow Sharp around for the day like normal. And as many smiles as a 3-under-par 68 brought Sharp Thursday, the most smiles were reserved for Wednesday night when she saw Erin smile and laugh for the first time - something she’d only heard about in texts from her parents but hadn’t gotten to see until then. It’s why Sharp found it unfathomable that she wouldn’t play this event and why she had to turn down the privilege of representing her native Canada in the Pan-Am Games.
“The Lynch family, they’re like my second family,” Sharp said. “To not come to this event, I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Almost feels like a second home.”