GALLOWAY, N.J. - Scribbled along the canvas of Alena Sharp’s Titleist Friday wasn’t a line for aiming. No dots. No drawing. Simply, in all black Sharpee, were the letters “EL” just to the left of the number.
It’s that same EL that she’s sure were the reason her ball on a couple occasions toppled the correct way off of the late afternoon grown Poa Annua grass into the hole.
The EL stands for Erin Lynch, and at a number of events, Erin and her parents would actually be in the crowd following Sharp for 18 holes.
But Sharp devastatingly found out Sunday that Erin, 19, was in a head-on collision in her native Toledo and is currently in the neuro intensive care unit. Ever since Sharp’s been in touch with the family daily, pulling for Erin in much the way Erin’s always pulled for her.
“She’s not doing well. She has brain damage, and obviously she hasn’t woken up yet,” Sharp said. “It’s just been catching up with them every day, and she’s in my thoughts. It’s just perspective. You know, it’s just a game. It’s not really life or death. People are hurt and sick and injured, and I just have more perspective this week because they’re really like my second family.”
Sharp first met the Lynch’s 10 years ago as a wide-eyed rookie, looking for a host family to take her in in Toledo during the annual Marathon Classic. Her travel plans for that week have been a no brainer ever since, staying with them every year as Erin’s grown from a nine-year-old into a college freshman. Each year since she could always count on seeing a familiar face as the standard bearer walking the fairway with her – it was Erin.
Throughout the season she’d see Erin and her family too. They’d show up at Manulife every year for the tournament in Sharp’s native Canada and to see her in Rochester at the old Wegmans LPGA. They’d go to the old Corning Classic, too, and whenever the U.S. Women’s Open was hosted in a nearby state, they’d be there in the gallery as well.
“I mean they’re just always there for me, just like my parents are,” Sharp said. “They are really just like family.”
So much so that when Sharp has to fly to certain tournaments, the Lynch’s will offer to keep her dogs for the week, Chandler and Porter. Both now wear dog bandanas around their neck with the logo of the Lynch’s favorite team – the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Throughout a 4-under-par 67 Friday that has her just one shot back of the lead, she thought of Erin. On the greens, which have been the nemesis to her game all season, Sharp couldn’t help but think that the kind bumps off of the poa annua were the tug from EL.
“Today was a really good putting day for me,” she said. “I made a lot of putts. I feel like Erin was here helping me lift those putts that were on the edge.”