Canada, Brooke Henderson Rule the North

O Canada! Henderson Takes the Home Trophy Home Where It Belongs

The LPGA CP Women’s Open, the national championship of Canada for all intents and purposes has not been won by a Canadian woman since Jocelyne Bourassa did it in 1973. That’s a generation or so before Brooke Henderson was born.  With the game’s international boom in recent decades, winning one’s home championship has become increasingly difficult on the LPGA Tour. With teen-aged New Zealanders like Lydia Ko on the loose, who had a special affinity for Canadian victories, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and dozens of other Hall of Famers to be, winning at home requires the same four days of brilliance that is necessary everywhere on tour.

Today, Canada put a stop to the victory drought in Saskatchewan. In Brooke Henderson, the nation now has its own Annika, Lydia and Lorena. She’s good anywhere, against anyone, and contends on a regular basis. Seeing her name atop a leader board is never a surprise, and she seems a bottomless well of energy and grit. All she needed to do in order to win the Canadian national tournament is put it all together…right now, easier said than done. Looking at the standings coming into the last round, those of us cheering for Henderson, but not inside her mind suffered no small share of anxiety. Trailing close behind were some of the greatest hope killers in the game, the best in the business. The memory of Sung Hyun Park’s playoff victory in the U.S. Women’s Open loomed large. Lydia was close, and loves playing in Canada. Nasa Hataoka, another member of the U,S. playoff a few weeks back, kept hanging around, and young phenom Angel Yin, looked sharp and hungry for her first win.
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Brooke has had a rough summer, losing two grandparents. That time is a harsh phase of life. One or two tournaments have also slipped away, leaving her in a state of visible frustration. For this slim lead, however, she put together the perfect strategy, which is to birdie the lights out of the course until it no longer matters what anyone else is shooting. And so it went, with a birdie binge from this challenger and that, including Mo Martin’s impressive 62. Henderson birdied four in a row in the final nine for a four-stroke win without the trappings of a cliff-hanger, or any mention of the “playoff” word. Fighting birdies with birdies is the realm of only great players under pressure in the final round, and it would be difficult to point to one area of Henderson’s game that made it happen. It all went well, and the changing temperatures that bothered Yin didn’t seem to have of an effect on Brooke. After all, she’s won in Hawaii, and is totally at home on a hockey rink.

Following the final birdie putt, you had an international champion standing there as her country’s champion as well, a mutual pride between player and homeland I have not seen duplicated. The national anthem as sung spontaneously by the crowd was moving even to a non-Canadian, and Mr. Henderson was at the ready with the champagne. On the bag was sister Brittany,  There is no shortage of support in the Henderson family.

If memory serves me correctly, Henderson is still shy of twenty-one, with hundreds of tournaments left to go. This one will rank among the fondest memories, I feel certain. For Canada, laden with gorgeous courses spread over a gorgeous and vast landscape, it is a fitting ending, and a shot in the arm for young aspiring golfers.

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