Jackie Little was struck by a vehicle while walking in downtown Port Alberni on Christmas Eve three years ago.
The accident left her with a blown shoulder which took a few yards off her drives on the golf course.
The bubbly 55-year-old grandmother had shoulder surgery last year, and after a nine-month rehabilitation program, is back to winning tournaments.
“It’s coming together,” said Little, moments after shooting even-par 72 on the Morningstar course Friday afternoon in Parksville with a friend. “It’s been kind of a pokey process getting my game back. My shoulder’s not perfect. I don’t have the strength I once did, bit I’m pain free.”
Little opens the Royale Cup Canadian Senior Women’s Championships Tuesday at the Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club. A total of 107 players over age 50 will compete for the Ada MacKenzie trophy over 54 holes.
Little shot three rounds in the 70s (72-78-74) three weeks ago to claim the Alberta Senior Ladies cup at the Willow Park Golf & Country Club in Calgary.
Little is high on Spallumcheen, where she has won B.C. amateur and provincial senior crowns.
“I like Spall. What you see is what you get. There are no surprises. The greens are always in good shape and it’s a very fair course. It should set up for some good golf. There are some great players so it’s very exciting for Vernon.”
Little has won four Canadian women’s championships, 15 provincial titles, scores of zone titles and a few hundred golf tournament trophies and prizes.
Now playing out of the Hollies executive course that she and husband, Pat, a former Vernon pro, run in Port Alberni, Jackie has been winning on the links for more than three decades.
Little has represented Canada as team captain at both the Women’s World Amateur Championships and the Commonwealth Games. She has twice been named Pacific Northwest player of the year, and in 2009, she was inducted into the B.C. Golf Hall of Fame. She entered the Okanagan shrine last year.
At the Alberta seniors, Little reeled off three birdies and closed with back-to-back pars on the final two holes to win by seven strokes over Melanie Grant of Kelowna.
The B.C. ladies completed a clean sweep as the top-three finishers with Karen Pultz of Surrey placing one stroke back of Grant.
Joining Little in the pre-tournament favourite category is Victoria’s Alison Murdoch. She was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame earlier this summer and is looking to win her record fifth Canadian senior crown.
Canadian Hall of Famer Mary Ann Hayward of Lachine, Que., who has won the event twice (2010 and 2011), won the Ontario Senior Women’s Championship earlier this summer, and will also contend.
Little arrives in Vernon today and will play the practice round Monday. The top-70 and ties make the 36-hole cut.
Meanwhile, the Titleist/FootJoy PGA of B.C. Championship, presented by AXIS Insurance, starts Monday at the Salmon Arm Golf Club.
Defending champion Brad Clapp of the Chilliwack Golf Club will be defending the title he won at Crown Isle in Courtenay last year.
Clapp is coming off a T3 at the Canada Cup in Victoriaville earlier this month, but his biggest challenge will come from players who did just as well or better than him in Victoriaville.
Greg Machtaler of Summerland is having a season to remember, winning the PGA of B.C. Pro-Assistants Championship at Clapp’s home course in June, adding the Pro-Assistant with Tye Babkirk in July and then cashing the $30,000 winner’s cheque at the Canada Cup with scintillating rounds of 63.
The field includes 75 top-notch PGA of B.C. players over 36 holes of stroke-play for a purse of $33,500 (based on a full field).
Hillview’s Keith Vandenbrink and Vernon’s Shannon Glenesk are in the tournament.
Vandenbrink is also having a superb summer, claiming $1,600 in the Pinebrook Pro-Am in Calgary last weekend.
The towering 50-year-old pocketed $1,500 for sharing fifth place with rounds of 2-over-73 and 71, while earning another $100 for the second-low round of the day.
Earlier in the week, Vandenbrink tied for third and collected $575 with a 2-under-70 in the Radium Hot Springs Pro-Am and carried home $300 for splitting fifth place at 74-77 in the Nk’Mip Canyon Men’s Open in Oliver.