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Marathon Classic: Sharp feels right at home in Toledo

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Alena Sharp measures a putt in an LPGA Tour event earlier this year. Sharp has developed a close relationship with a Maumee couple she’s stayed with for the past 13 years during the week of the tournament. (AP file photo.)

By SCOTT COTTOS

STAFF WRITER

SYLVANIA — Twenty-two-year-old Maumee resident Erin Lynch has a special relationship with Canadian LPGA Tour professional Alena Sharp.

“She’s my sister,” Lynch said with a big smile just before Sharp finished her opening round in the Marathon Classic Thursday at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

Actually, they’re not blood relatives. But they may as well be.

Erin and her parents, Ken and Tami Lynch, have hosted Sharp as she’s played the Toledo-area tournament for the last 13 years, so she essentially has watched Erin grow up and become close to the Lynches, staying in contact year-round.

All of their lives changed in May 2015 when Erin suffered a traumatic brain injury in a head-on traffic crash on Ohio 15 near Vanlue. A Findlay man died in the collision.

“It put a lot of things in perspective,” Sharp said after carding an even-par 71 on Thursday. “It was horrible. … I went out that day (in tournament play) and I didn’t start out well, but I knew I was going to find it in me to dig it out.

“I finished pretty decent in that tournament. I did it for her. I was always thinking about her. It gives you perspective on life. Life’s too short. Something can happen; you never know. You don’t ever want to take things for granted.”

Erin Lynch’s speech is limited, but, she said, “I know a little bit of sign language.”

She also knows how to tease her big sister.

“Quit trying to make me laugh,” Sharp scolded her during an interview.

Actually, that’s exactly one of the reasons Sharp loves the Lynches.

“I love staying with them,” she said. “It’s always a lot of fun. They’re just really positive people and they lift my spirits up when I’m down.

“They’re making me laugh, which is key right now because golf isn’t the most fun for me right now,” she said, noting that her game has been off for a while. “So, being around Erin and her silliness makes me smile and laugh and that’s what I need the most.”

Erin, in turn, enjoys what Sharp brings to her life.

“She nice and funny — like me,” she said with that big smile while seated on her scooter.

A scooter was Erin’s mode of travel when she was an honorary standard bearer for Sharp’s group at the Meier LPGA Classic, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last month.

“She had been a standard bearer for Alena for many, many years, so she got to be the standard bearer on the first hole on the first day,” Ken Lynch said. “The tournament director in Grand Rapids made sure everything was set for her and everything was running smoothly.”

“I’m very thankful for all the help I received,” Erin said.

Erin wasn’t physically ready to do so this year, so hopes are she can walk the first hole at Highland Meadows as Sharp’s standard bearer in 2019. She currently has limited mobility with the use of a cane.

“She can do about 150 steps,” her father said.

Families around the tour frequently host players for many years, but Sharp believes her relationship with her “second family” is beyond the norm.

“This is a little different, I think,” Sharp said. “I’ve stayed with some others. My Portland family — I’ve stayed with them for 13 years, too, and I’m not as close with them. I mean, yes, we’re close, but not like these guys. Erin’s like my sister.”

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