The Loop

'Oh Canada' being heard at U.S. Women's Amateur

August 13, 2010

__CHARLOTTE--__The steamy, sticky weather that's blanketed Charlotte CC all week wouldn't seem to be conducive to a couple players from the Great White North.Jennifer Kirby and Stephanie Sherlock, however, would like everyone attending the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship to know it doesn't snow year round in Canada.

"It actually gets pretty hot there in the summer," said Sherlock, a 23-year-old from Barrie, Ontario, "maybe only 10 degrees cooler than here."

Oh, and it's not all just hockey there either. They play a little bit of golf, too, as Kirby and Sherlock proved Friday when they advanced to the semifinals, putting themselves in position to be just the third Canadian to ever win the Robert Cox Cup. Only Marlene Streit (1956) and Cathy Sherk (1978) have previously come south of the border to claim the U.S. Women's Amateur title.

Kirby, a 19-year-old from Paris, Ontario who plays college golf at Alabama, breezed to victory in her quarterfinal match, taking down Kristen Park, 6 and 5., to set up a Saturday semifinal contest with__Danielle Kang__. Last year's SEC freshman of the year took the lead on the first hole and never trailed as she made five birdies.

"I'm definitely getting more comfortable every time I play," said Kirby, noting that she shot a four-over 76 in the first round of stroke play before bouncing back with a second-round 70 to give her confidence heading into match play. "Each time I'm going around, I get a better sense for how to play the course."

Sherlock's 2-and-1 victory in her quarterfinal tilt with Numa Gulyanamitta was a bit more tense from the very start. As Sherlock was getting ready to tee off, her caddie for the week was still not on the property having gotten stuck stuck in traffic. Sherlock's father, David, was forced to carry the bag for the first two holes until the caddie finally arrived.

"We were a little rattled at the start," said Sherlock, who didn't necessarily show it, birdieing the first two holes.

While being 3 up after six holes, Sherlock struggled in the middle of the round, making bogeys on the seventh and 10th holes, then hitting her tee ball in the water on the par-3 11th for another bogey to fall back to all square.

"I've been fighting my golf swing a bit all week and tend to miss the odd shot," Sherlock said.

Instead of letting it upset her, though, Sherlock bounced back by making a 10-foot birdie putt on 12th and a kick in birdie try on the 14th to go take a 2-up advantage. When Gulyanamitta made a double bogey on the 15th, the match for all intents and purposes was over, setting up a semifinal showdown with Jessica Korda (who won her quarterfinal match with Erynne Lee, 4 and 3).

A first-team All-American at Denver as a junior, Sherlock had big expectations for her senior season but struggled with her game this past spring. "I got a little too technical," she admitted. "I was worrying about my golf swing a little too much." When the Pioneers surprisingly failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship, Sherlock decided to put her clubs away for a month to let her mind clear.

"It's been fun getting back into it," she said, having playing in a women's Canadian Tour and the Canadian Women's Amateur.

Kirby and Sherlock have been staying with each other and three other members of the Canadian national team in attendance this week. Having the team together has helped keep the mood light and the pressure off.

That said, both Kirby and Sherlock are aware that their performance this week would go a long well in determining whether they would be among the final three players selected for the Canadian team that will compete at this fall's Women's World Amateur Team Championship.

So what would it mean if one of the two of them could pull out a victory here this week?

"I think some people would start paying more attention," Sherlock said. "We don't have many golfers on the LPGA and PGA Tour but obviouysly the RCGA is working hard to change that."

And how about if they wound up facing each other in the final?

Said Kirby: "The good thing would be that at least we know a Canadian would win."