Alena Sharp, center, stays with her host family in Springfield Township when she plays at the Farr Classic. The Lynch family includes, from left, Tami, Andrew, Erin and Ken.
When it comes to the game of golf, Alena Sharp and Tami Lynch don t really have much in common.
Sharp, 27, is a third-year professional on the LPGA Tour and the top women s player from Canada.
Lynch, 50, is an educator with bachelor s and master s degrees from Ohio State and a specialist degree from Toledo. Although her parents used to own the House of Golf shop in Toledo, this mother of two from Springfield Township considers herself more spectator than athlete.
On the subject of life, however, these two women from different generations and countries have bridged gaps and found common ground and a common cause that has created a bond between them.
Lynch has twice battled back from cancer, and Sharp is joining the fight by helping raise funds for cancer research.
Initially, the relationship was as simple as host and guest.
Sharp boarded at the Lynch home while competing in the 2006 and 2007 Jamie FarrClassics.
The first year I played here I registered for housing and [the Lynches] were who I wasassigned to, Sharp said. We just hit it off from the start and they are great hosts. They re accommodating and friendly and very supportive. Since that first year we ve just become really close.
I stay with 11 families a year, and I m close to all of them. You build a bond. But this [Lynch] family is the most involved with my life. They re always watching my [tourney] scores online.
They e-mail me every week and they write on my Web site. They came to my [Alzheimer s] charity tournament in Ontario last year, and this year came to see me play at Corning [New York].
It s an ongoing relationship.
Tami s trip to Corning was a surprise 50th birthday present from husband Ken.
The Lynches have indeed gone beyond just being good hosts.
The first year Alena just seemed like she didn t want to impose, Tami said. But we told her, This is your home.
People don t realize how difficult it can be on the tour. It s not a glamorous life unless you re one of the top players, and it can be hard for players who are new on the tour. You have to adapt quickly.
When Alena comes here we don t want her to have to worry about anything. We want her to just play. It s nice to be able to relax. She and her caddie [Tara Bateman] have both stayed with us, and they re good people.
As the comfort level has grown, so has the relationship.
Sharp, whose best career finish is a tie for seventh place, contended well through three rounds at the Farr Classic last year before ultimately finishing in a tie for 28th place with an seesaw line of 65-74-67-78 284. She was tied for second after 18 holes and in fourth place after 54.
I guess there was a sign that we were getting closer last year, Tami said. After one of the rounds Alena was in some pain with a sore elbow. I asked her what she was going to do for it, and she said, I don t know, you re the mom. What do you think? So, we put a bag of frozen corn on it and she was good to go.
Lynch and Sharp s relationship only continued to grow after Lynch began battling cancer.
In January of 2003, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, After surgery and months of chemotherapy treatment, she beat it into remission.
In April of 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After lumpectomy surgery and radiation therapy, she now appears to have halted this attack as well.
I just reached five years on the colon cancer, Lynch said, so that s a good sign. If God s willing and the creek don t rise, I should be OK. Early detection is the key, and I am a true cheerleader for that.
I definitely feel fortunate about my life. I knew, right from the beginning, that I could either wallow in my own despair, or use my positive energy to help keep me healthy.
This viewpoint has served her well, according to her husband.
Tami takes it in stride and she has such a great attitude about it, Ken Lynch said. Her thinking is, Let s just get over whatever it is and move on. We ll do what we have to do and keep going.
That s made it pretty easy for me.
The goal for Tami is simple.
I have two kids that I want to see grow up, she said, and I don t want this to slow me down. I was thankful that I was able to drive myself to my treatments and walk in and walk out. There are a lot of cancer patients who aren t able to do that, and a lot of them don t have the support system that I ve had. I feel very fortunate; very blessed.
Blessed, but not out of the woods.
You go into every checkup with a little bit of trepidation, Tami said. You wonder and you wait, and you try not to obsess about it. I have incisions all over my torso, but they re a reminder that I m still here.
For Sharp, primarily because the disease found her a friend or Toledo mom, as she calls Tami it has become a mission.
Earlier this year she was named by the Royal Canadian Golf Association as its 2008 Ambassador for the RCGA Golf Fore the Cure program, a national fund-raising initiative for breast cancer research. To date, the program has raised over $1 million in less than two years.
The Canadian player will also host the third annual Alena Sharp Charity Classic, a fund-raiser for Alzheimer s, on Aug. 5 in Brantford, Ont. Her grandmother was afflicted with that disease.
Last year, after Tami was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn t even tell me [at Farr Classic] until after the tournament was over, Alena said. She said she didn t want to upset me or have me worrying about her while I was playing. It actually wouldn t have been a problem because those kinds of things aren t a problem when you care about somebody, and everybody cares so much about her.
When they told me after the tournament, it was pretty shocking news. But luckily she caught it early enough. It kind of scares you because she s still young. It just reinforces that women need to get mammograms every year. My mom is a nurse and she sees it all the time. I ve learned a lot more about it since this happened.
While Tami Lynch s first battle with cancer has blended into a second, she remains upbeat, positive and energetic about her life and her future with Ken, son Andrew, 17, and daughter Erin, 12.
Tami is grateful for the support system her family, friends and co-workers have provided. As for Alena Sharp s commitment north of the border, well that one got a little emotional.
The way I found out was she sent me an e-mail, Tami said of Alena s appointment. Here-mail said, Check out this link. I clicked on it and it was the announcement about her being named ambassador. I was really touched. I sat there at the computer with tears in my eyes.
Sharp says the request from the RCGA was an easy one to grant.
I said yes right away because it hit me being close to Tami and some other people I know who had been diagnosed, Sharp said.
The most significant part of Sharp s role as ambassador will come September 15 when she helps host the Golf Fore the Cure tournament event in Toronto.
I think Alena s a great person, first and foremost, Ken Lynch said. It s an honor to watch her play and be around her because of what she does for her community and because she treats people so well.
I was definitely honored and appreciative that she would do something like this.
I m just an up-and-comer [$419,448 career earnings] in Canada, Sharp said, so I don t know what kind of impact I can make. But, if I can just help bring people out to help raise money, that s a good thing. You always want to give back to the community where you come from.
What I admire most about Tami is that she gives her all for everybody. She goes out of her way to help other. She s good with her kids and she s a very patient person. She and Ken are two peas in a pod. They re both very caring people.
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461