Sherlock focuses on 'golf is fun again' mentality

Stephanie Sherlock watches her second shot at No. 10 on Legends during Friday of LPGA Q-School. Sherlock started her day in 6th place.

Stephanie Sherlock watches her second shot at No. 10 on Legends during Friday of LPGA Q-School. Sherlock started her day in 6th place.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Asked to sum up her life these days, Stephanie Sherlock utters four important words, and says them with ease: “Golf is fun again.”

That wasn’t the case four months ago, when Sherlock became so frustrated with the game that she disappeared from the LPGA tour. The Canadian took two weeks of much-needed rest at her grandparents’ lake house north of Toronto and didn’t touch a club. She said it was weird but also refreshing.

“I went up there for a while and just relaxed and hung out,” she said.

It was a more controversial decision for a second-year tour player than one might imagine. Sherlock felt pressure from everyone around her, urging her to take the spots she had earned in the limited number of domestic events on the LPGA schedule. Sherlock held firm that she was doing what she needed to do.

It’s a far different approach than Sherlock had a year ago, when, No. 101 on the LPGA money list at the end of her rookie season, she entered LPGA Q-School to try to improve her status.

“I didn’t have to come,” she said. “I was just thinking, ‘You might as well try.’ There was nothing else going on.”

Sherlock played well that week, and would have earned a card on Sunday had she not called a penalty on herself at No. 14 when her ball moved at address. The penalty stroke bumped her to part of a nine-way tie for 20th, and she didn’t advance out of the ensuing playoff. Sherlock was bummed at the time, but now a year removed, she thinks it cost her a spot in only one tournament, the LPGA Founders Cup, where she was the first alternate.

At No. 139 on the money list after this season (she made two cuts in 10 starts), Sherlock had to play Q-School this year to retain her card. Had she been in the same position as last year, she’s not sure she would have come to Daytona Beach for the week.

“It would have been nice knowing you’re in everything instead of always having to check to see if you’re on the list, hoping you move up and hoping people withdraw,” said Sherlock, a Denver alumna. “Hopefully this year we can have that mind-set.”

Sherlock shot 1-under 71 on Friday on LPGA International’s Legends Course. After three rounds, she is tied for fifth at 4-under 212. She has family in nearby Tampa, Fla., so a crowd of family members waited off the 18th green after she finished her round. Sherlock has been here for nearly a month, staying in her family’s RV and practicing.

“Confidence is coming back,” Sherlock said on the state of her game these days. “The last month has been decent golf again, so it’s a little more fun.”

• • •

MAKING HISTORY: Temperatures were near 80 degrees on a sunny Friday in Daytona Beach, but Kayla Mortellaro finished 18 holes bundled in long pants and a jacket. The recent Idaho graduate only recently returned to her native Arizona, so cut her a break for thin Southern blood.

Mortellaro has made the most of what might have been a bad week after one round at LPGA International. She opened with a 7-over 79 and was T-112. Back-to-back rounds of 3-under 69 have helped her move to T-24.

Mortellaro hit two costly shots during her first round. She lost a ball on No. 17 on the Legends Course and took a triple bogey, then made a double bogey after hitting into a hazard in front of the 18th green.

“I really like this side because it’s pretty narrow, and I tend to hit the ball pretty straight,” she said. “It’s really just the greens. You have to hit your places, know your distances.”

Aside from the Arizona and Colorado Opens, Mortellaro spent much of her summer preparing for this week – and the two previous stages of Q-School. She has wanted this life since she was 5 years old. She could have arrived at this stage in a much different way.

Mortellaro left Idaho with 10 collegiate victories on her resume. She looks back at the decision to play golf for a northern school rather than fight for a spot on a larger roster – she had the opportunity to walk on at Arizona State – and knows it was the right one.

“I really grew up as a person,” she said. “I got a lot out of the academic side of things (at Idaho) and being a leader on the team as well as in my life. I felt like going to a bigger school might be a bit overwhelming – so big you get lost in the shuffle.”

Should Mortellaro leave Daytona Beach with an LPGA tour card this week, she would be the first Idaho women’s golfer to do it. Other players have turned professional but haven’t succeeded in earning a card.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: Moriya Jutanugarn increased her lead to six shots with a third-round 69. Her second-round 66 is the lowest round this week. . . . Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Min Seo Kwak were the low players on Friday, with rounds of 5-under 67. . . . Victoria Tanco was disqualified when she failed to show up for her tee time on Friday. Tanco, who finished among the top 20 at last year’s final stage, was in last place after two rounds.

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