When Brooke Henderson thinks back, it is hard to believe that this weekend marks five years since her victory at the Canadian Women’s Open.
The 25-year-old has won 13 LPGA tournaments during her career, but only one on Canadian soil.
“It’s crazy that it was that long ago,” Henderson, Canada’s top female golfer, says. “It is definitely the highlight of my career and I would love to be able to do that again.
“I still remember so many details of that rainy, windy, cold Sunday. I kind of get goosebumps even just thinking about it [and] would love the opportunity and the chance to repeat it.”
Henderson, who is from Smiths Falls in rural Eastern Ontario, shot 21 under par at that 2018 event in Regina to become the first Canadian in 45 years to win the Canadian Open.
On Thursday she will get a chance to do it again when the US$1.5 million CPKC Women’s Open commences at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver.
The field for the 72-hole event includes nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex world rankings, led by Lilia Vu of the United States. Henderson, who won in her first start on the tour this winter, is currently 10th.
“It has been a little bit of an up-and-down year, so hopefully this will be more of an up week,” Henderson says. In July, she finished second to Céline Boutier of France at the Evian Open. “I feel my game is trending in the right direction and that I have to stick to the process.
“To start out on such a high was amazing, and it definitely took a lot of pressure off early in the year. I haven’t had as many top results as I would’ve liked, but I feel like I’m learning a lot and continuing to grow as a person and a player. That’s the main goal, just to try to get better in all the different ways you can.”
Henderson has come a long way since she accompanied her father and sister Brittany on her first round of golf at the age of 3. Initially she thought the goal was to be the fastest to get the ball in the cup, so she would race ahead of them to do it.
She turned professional at 17 in 2015 and with a final round of 66 that year finished in a tie for fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open. With Brittany as her caddy, she also became the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour since Lorie Kane in 2001. Since then Henderson has become a superstar and Canada’s most popular golfer. She has won more tournaments than any Canadian woman in history, has been ranked in the top 10 on the women’s tour for nine straight years and represented her country at the Olympics in 2016 and 2020.
On Monday and Tuesday she played nine-hole practice rounds at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. As she describes it, the 6,585-yard course is a nightmare: narrow fairways and fast, small and sloping greens.
“It’s going to be important to have a good strategy and then to be able to execute,” she says on a video call with journalists Tuesday afternoon. “There are a lot of variables and the conditions play a role too, depending on the weather and the wind.
“Right now I think pars will be a very good score. I don’t imagine scores will be too low.”
Henderson has just eight more tournaments to play this year. Undoubtedly this is one of her favourites.
“Coming into the week you know it’s going to be a big week, and that’s really exciting,” she says. “It’s an incredible opportunity and I’m just trying to make the most of it and be the best I can.
“This week is a big deal. It’s the highlight of my year pretty much every year. It’s exciting to get to be so close to so many fans, and regardless of where we are in the country, the fans and the crowds come out to watch. Just to feel that kind of love and support is really special.”
Canada adores its athletes. It has plenty to choose from in hockey, and a fair number in baseball, basketball and tennis and track and field.
In women’s golf, there is pretty much Brooke Henderson. She plays every week with a country on her shoulders.
“I love playing for Canada,” she says. “I love it on the first tee when they introduce me and sometimes say I am from Smiths Falls, sometimes from Ontario, but always from Canada.
“Definitely there is some more pressure, but I really enjoy the opportunity and I’m just trying to be my best out there. I appreciate the support and the love that I receive. It’s really special and sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself because all of these people are out watching me and supporting me. Hopefully I can make them proud.”