This may not have been the homecoming Brooke Henderson envisioned.
But in a first round at the CP Women’s Open in Ottawa where Canada’s winningest golfer of all time failed to buy a putt after a blistering start, the crowd support never weakened.
“It’s okay, Brooke,” shouted a fan after Henderson put three bogey putts on his fifth hole.
“You’re the best Canada has got,” shouted another as Henderson stopped and signed autographs after her round.
Henderson finished with an under-69 rating at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, a course about an hour north of his hometown of Smiths Falls, Ont.
“It’s so crazy and super cool that I have so much support,” Henderson said. “I mean, I know I’m close to home, but to see so many people watching is just an amazing opportunity. I’m just trying to soak in and play a little better.”
After opening with three birdies in three holes, the Canadian capped. She only managed two more birdies against three bogeys for the rest of the course.
Although her ball striking was excellent throughout, Henderson’s short game let her down at times.
“I feel like I hit the ball really close today. Maybe the putter wasn’t as hot on the back nine. I feel like I could have gone really low , so it’s a little disappointing, but at the same time, under par, and I feel like everything is fine and I’ll play better tomorrow,” Henderson said.
Henderson is tied for 51st, watching three other Canadians in the standings. Toronto amateur Lauren Zaretsky, backed by an ace on the fifth hole, was 3 under, while Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., and Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ont., were 4 under each.
12-year-old Lucy Lin of Vancouver, the youngest player to qualify for this tournament, scored 3 out of 74.
South African Paula Reto was in the lead after the first round, with a 9-under 62.
WATCH | Szeryk tied for the weak Canadian at 4 under:
‘It’s the stuff dreams are made of’
Still, it was clear who the crowd was coming to see.
The 24-year-old Henderson’s 12 wins and two major titles are unmatched in Canadian history.
One of those victories came at the 2018 CP Women’s Open in Regina — a moment that Brittany Henderson, Brooke’s sister and caddy, says stands out in her seven years on the bag.
Only one thing could be better.
“For [Brooke] To do it even closer to home in Ottawa would be pretty amazing,” Brittany said ahead of this week’s tournament.
It wasn’t until last month at the Evian Championship in France that a firm claim to the title of the greatest Canadian golfer of all time was within reach.
Brooke took the lead on the weekend by becoming the first LPGA player to open a major tournament with two rounds of 64. But Saturday she fell back into the pack, and Sunday was nearly disastrous when an early putt l pushed out of the circuit. fully drive.
“I said to him, ‘This is the stuff dreams are made of.’ And I’m serious,” Brittany said. “I was having so much fun. Even though it’s intense and you’re serious there. But I was having so much fun just being in that position.”
Despite a bogey on the next hole, Brooke birdied three of the last five and eventually fought back to win by sinking a 10-foot putt on the 18th.
It’s the same spirit the Hendersons hope to carry on Friday in Ottawa and, hopefully, throughout the weekend.
At this point, the sisters have a lot of experience on the golf course together.
When they were kids, they played matches where the winner got chocolate milk or just didn’t have to do the dishes.
It was a sibling rivalry that quickly became evenly matched despite Brittany’s age advantage. They broke their home course record about a year to the day apart from each other.
“I feel like it was healthy competition and it made us good competitors on the golf course. But I was six and a half years older than her, so I felt like that she was always really trying to keep up with me, which is a tough job when you’re a lot younger,” Brittany said.
By 2015, each had turned pro — Brittany after graduating from Coastal Carolina University and Brooke at just 17.
They were both trained by their father, Dave Henderson, and the sisters caddies for each other whenever possible.
But when Brooke won her first professional tournament that year, they realized that if they teamed up, the stakes could go from chocolate milk to millions of dollars.
Paul Vaillancourt, a former Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club professional who spent time with the Hendersons as children, said Brooke “doesn’t like to lose”.
“She doesn’t have the most classic golf swing you’ll ever see. I mean, she definitely has a lot of strengths,” he said. “But I think it’s his attitude of just wanting to put that ball in the hole that has always made him successful.”
Humble but competitive
Hearing people describe Brooke, the former goaltender, brings up some classic Canadian hockey stereotypes.
“She’s so go-getter, happy. If I asked her to do little things like choose the shooting range or clean the clubs, she was always one of the best to do it,” Vaillancourt recalled.
Lisa Ferkul, director of marketing, added: “She has a certain humility that Canadians naturally have, I think. And so I think that patriotism makes her really special because she represents our whole nation.”
Brooke and Brittany now live about 15 minutes apart in Southwest Florida. Despite her husband’s best efforts, Brittany hasn’t played in a few years – she says her competitive streak would make things difficult when she inevitably misses a fairway or two.
“Brittany was very talented. Personally, I think she could probably be in the top 30 on the LPGA Tour herself. That’s my opinion,” Vaillancourt said.
Brooke said she hopes Brittany stays on her bag “for a long time.”
“Just being able to travel the world together is a super fun trip. She’s my best friend and she works hard for me on and off the course,” Brooke said.
The sisters have hoisted trophies around the world, from France to Hawaii to Saskatchewan.
But here in Ottawa, it’s the one closest to home that matters most.
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