Canadians are always looking for the “next” golfer to succeed on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. They’ve been asking for a while who might be the next Mike Weir –Weyburn, Sask.’s Graham DeLaet, perhaps? They’ve also been asking who might be the next golfer to win on the LPGA Tour. Stephanie Sherlock, perhaps?
Sherlock, 23, is from Barrie, Ont., where she was practicing recently at an indoor facility. She’s there frequently when she’s home with her parents, David and Angela, and her younger sister, Melanie, and she’s usually hitting balls while her long-time instructor Murray St. Onge watches. They’ve worked together since her dad, a former pro hockey player and coach in Europe, asked him to take a look at her swing and setup.
Sherlock was 13 then. Fast-forward 10 years and all her hard work has paid off. She reached the semifinals of last August’s U.S. Women’s Amateur in Charlotte, N.C., before losing, and then turned pro. She was tied for 27th heading into the final round of the LPGA Tour’s qualifying school before the turn of the year, and then shot 72 in the last round to move up into a tie for 14th and win her card.
Last week, Sherlock went down to Tampa, where a family friend has a condo. She was practicing and playing there, and preparing to move forward in her career. Here is a young woman who won the 2007 Royale Cup Canadian Women’s Amateur. She won on the 2008 CN Canadian Women’s Tour when still an amateur. She won eight college tournaments while attending the University of Denver. And then she reached that semifinal of the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
It’s been quite a ride for Sherlock, a member of Team Canada from 2006-2010. She credits Golf Canada’s women’s head coach Derek Ingram along with its then mental coach Dana Sinclair with helping her development.
But Onge has been the biggest influence on Sherlock, at least from the golf community. (Her parents own a small, challenging course called Simoro Golf Links near her home, and they have obviously had a major influence on her development). She refers to Onge as her “only” coach, meaning he’s been with her for this past decade and is never more than a phone call away.
“Right off the bat when I first saw Stephanie I could see how athletic she was,” Onge said from his home in Barrie. “She played basketball, volleyball and hockey. I knew her hand-eye coordination was good, and I felt that she would do well if she liked golf.”
Sherlock took to golf, and, Onge said, she looked something like the great English player Laura Davies when she made a swing. Sherlock came up on her toes as she tried to create power. Onge and Sherlock worked on fundamentals, emphasizing setup and swing plane.
They also worked on her belief in herself. Onge used some sleight of mouth to give Sherlock confidence.
“I’d tell her that she was going to be the number one junior in Ontario, and that she would get a golf scholarship to a U.S. college, and that she would be the number one amateur in Canada,” Onge said. “The cool thing is that she is one of the hardest-working girls I know. A lot of people could learn from her. If she has an hour to work on her game, she’ll spend 65 percent of the time on her short game.”
That attention paid dividends at qualifying school. Sherlock got up and down 24 of 27 times, and was eight for eight in sand saves. Onge figures her short game prowess got her through the school and on to the LPGA Tour.
At 59, Onge has seen some 40 of his students go on to golf scholarships in U.S. schools. Both of his kids have had golf scholarships. And when Sherlock was going through qualifying school, well, he couldn’t help but think of her as one of his own kids. In a way, she is, when it comes to his contributing to her moving into the wider world of golf.
“I was on my computer checking her score on every hole from qualifying school,” Onge said. “Canadians are excited that she is on the LPGA Tour now, I know, but the people in Barrie were really excited.”
They were so excited and optimistic that 100 people turned out at Simoro in October to raise some funds for the new pro. The event raised $25,000. Just last week, Sherlock signed with Landmark Sports Group in Toronto to represent her. Landmark represents her fellow Canadian PGA Tour players DeLaet and David Hearn.
Sherlock thinks she will get into about 10 LPGA Tour events this year, given its reduced schedule that includes some limited-field tournaments. She’ll also play some mini-tour events.
“If I can get in the top 60-70 on the money list right off the bat, that will be good,” Sherlock said of her LPGA appearances. That will get her into more tournaments.
But who knows, maybe she will do much better than that. All the signs are promising.