It was more dif­fi­cult to win this year

Smiths Falls Brooke Hen­der­son lists her top high­lights from the 2017 LPGA sea­son

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - ADAM STAN­LEY

Brooke Hen­der­son’s vic­tory at the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open came with more than a cash prize and a tro­phy.

Hen­der­son was given a tra­di­tional Maori cloak after win­ning her first tournament out­side North Amer­ica, and the young Cana­dian golfer counts that hon­our as a ma­jor high­light of her suc­cess­ful sec­ond sea­son on the LPGA Tour.

“That cloak rep­re­sents that I’m part of that fam­ily and it’s hard to think about,” Hen­der­son said from her home in Naples, Fla. “I’m re­ally proud to own it and be con­sid­ered part of their fam­ily.”

The Septem­ber vic­tory at the in­au­gu­ral New Zealand Women’s Open was her sec­ond of the sea­son — her first win came at the Mei­jer LPGA Clas­sic in June — and was a big part of her favourite two weeks of the year. She said she en­joyed New Zealand more than any other of the 11 coun­tries she played in in 2017 and made time for a week’s holiday with her sis­ter (and cad­die) Brit­tany.

Although she ad­mit­ted she was slow out of the gate this year on the course, Hen­der­son still notched top-15 fin­ishes in 16 of the 30 events she played. She earned more than US$1.5 mil­lion and fin­ished sixth on the money list.

She also fin­ished top-10 in two key sta­tis­tics this year, greens in reg­u­la­tion and scor­ing av­er­age.

“I know my long game has al­ways been my strength, but to see those num­bers on weeks when I played well—and some weeks that I didn’ t— and to be that con­sis­tent… I’m re­ally happy with that,” she said. “Mov­ing into 2018 I def­i­nitely want to keep that up, work on my ball-strik­ing this off-sea­son but hope­fully im­prove my short game (and) putting stats. If I can make that hap­pen, hope­fully I’ll see even bet­ter re­sults.”

The 20-year-old called her sea­son a suc­cess, even though she said it was more dif­fi­cult to win this year ver­sus 2016.

“For a while we had 16 dif­fer­ent win­ners on Tour and no one was re­ally tak­ing charge of it. I feel like the tal­ent and the level of play was a lot stronger than it has been,” she said. “To get two wins when it was like that… it def­i­nitely gives me a lot of con­fi­dence.”

Hen­der­son also counts this year’s CP Women’s Open in Ot­tawa as a big high­light.

Although she strug­gled for the first two rounds — need­ing a birdie to drop on her fi­nal hole Fri­day just to make the 36-hole cut — she shot the course record at the Ot­tawa Hunt and Golf Club dur­ing Satur­day’s third round, an eight-under 63, to launch into con­tention. She even­tu­ally fin­ished tied for 12th.

Ot­tawa Hunt and Golf Club gave Hen­der­son an hon­orary mem­ber­ship last year, and Hen­der­son’s home­town of Smiths Falls, Ont. is less than an hour away from the club.

“I was grate­ful to make the week­end be­cause I wanted to put on a good show,” she said. “All these peo­ple were there to watch me. I loved their sup­port and I re­ally wanted to show them what I could do.

“To have the course record at my home course against some of the best play­ers in the world… that’s awe­some. It’s history.”

Hen­der­son said her goal for next year is to move into the top 10 in the world rank­ings once again after peak­ing at No. 2 last year. She cur­rently sits at No. 13.

“I al­most want to say I know I’m a top-10 player, so it both­ers me a lit­tle bit that I’m just out­side,” said Hen­der­son. “I know that will change quickly. If I get a win early in 2018 and im­prove on those lit­tle things that I want to in the off-sea­son I feel I could get down into a good spot.”

Hen­der­son now has five wins on the LPGA Tour, sec­ond to only San­dra Post (eight) among Cana­di­ans, a record that could fall next year.

For now, she will ap­pear on some of the Golf Chan­nel’s pro­gram­ming this week be­fore re­turn­ing to Smiths Falls for the hol­i­days, where that cloak she won in New Zealand might come in handy.

“I might wear it as my win­ter coat when I go home,” she said.

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH PETERS/GeTTy iMaGes

Brooke Hen­der­son re­ceives a tra­di­tional Maori hongi after win­ning the New Zealand Women's Open tro­phy by MC Kim dur­ing day five of the New Zealand Women's Open at Win­dross Farm in Oc­to­ber in Auck­land, New Zealand.

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