Ama­teur savour­ing stage at LPGA stop in Regina

Fel­low Cana­dian Hen­der­son shoots well in open­ing round of CP Women’s Open

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - GREG HARDER [email protected]­media.com

REGINA Bobbi Bran­don was a win­ner be­fore she even stepped up to the first tee at the CP Women’s Open.

The Saska­toon prod­uct ac­com­plished her main goal Mon­day by claim­ing one of the tour­na­ment’s fi­nal ex­emp­tions in a qual­i­fy­ing event at the Royal Regina Golf Club.

As a re­sult, she was back in Regina Thurs­day morn­ing to tee off in Round 1 of the pres­ti­gious LPGA event at the Was­cana Coun­try Club. Al­though her per­for­mance wasn’t up to par, it did noth­ing to di­min­ish the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing on one of the big­gest stages in women’s golf.

“To make it here was the goal,” Bran­don said af­ter shoot­ing an 11over 83.

“Ob­vi­ously I had hoped for a bet­ter show­ing Day 1. At this point I’m just look­ing to play my best tomorrow and see what I can do on this course. It’s an op­por­tu­nity that doesn’t come around for ev­ery­body.”

Bran­don should know. She’s mak­ing just her sec­ond ca­reer ap­pear­ance in the CP Women’s Open af­ter de­but­ing 20 years ago in Wind­sor, Ont., where she missed the cut.

“Play­ing in it again 20 years later, I think I’m able to just kind of en­joy it,” said Bran­don, 40, a three-time Saskatchewan ama­teur cham­pion and five-time PGA of Saskatchewan women’s cham­pion.

“It’s just a dif­fer­ent way to see it now. I’m a lot more com­fort­able in my own skin. When I was 20, I was very ner­vous and shy. It’s dif­fer­ent to kind of just en­joy it and not be a lit­tle fright­ened by the sur­round­ings.”

Bran­don and fel­low Saska­toon prod­uct Anna Young (who shot a 6-over 78) are the only play­ers from Saskatchewan who qual­i­fied for the event. That au­to­mat­i­cally makes them two of the most pop­u­lar play­ers in a field that’s loaded with the big­gest names in the sport.

“Since I qual­i­fied, it has been non-stop, people wish­ing me well,” said Bran­don, the head pro­fes­sional at Moon Lake Golf and Coun­try Club in Saska­toon. “It has been great.

“I just wish it had been more of a setup where I knew I was in and I could have planned. Since I qual­i­fied, I’ve been back and forth to Saska­toon with work. That would be the only thing I would ide­ally change for the week, just to be here and prepar­ing a lit­tle bit bet­ter. But, re­gard­less, I’m here and def­i­nitely en­joy­ing it.”

Bran­don had a num­ber of family mem­bers and friends in at­ten­dance Thurs­day, al­though she joked that her cheer­ing sec­tion was a lit­tle smaller than that of Cana­dian phe­nom Brooke Hen­der­son, who had a mas­sive gallery. Bran­don is among 16 Cana­di­ans in the field.

“I re­ally didn’t feel that ner­vous,” she said. “You would think you should and I’m sure I did a lit­tle bit, but I felt com­fort­able. That wasn’t re­ally the rea­son I scored how I did. Just bad swings. I was strug­gling a bit off the tee, which puts you in bad po­si­tions through­out the course.

“I’ll hit the range and hit some tee shots and just get more com­fort­able off the tee for tomorrow.”

Al­though she’s from Saskatchewan, Bran­don doesn’t have much of a home-course advantage this week. She has played the Was­cana course only a few times over the years.

“Prob­a­bly two years ago would have been the last time,” she said. “It looks a lot dif­fer­ent for this event. It’s longer. The con­di­tions are just a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, too. The greens are faster.

“It’s def­i­nitely chal­leng­ing, but for me the big­gest thing is just to get off the tee and get into the fair­way. I feel fine with my irons and the rest of my game.”

She’s also feel­ing the love from lo­cal fans.

“I cer­tainly have sup­port,” Bran­don added. “There’s a lot of fa­mil­iar faces in the crowd, which is nice. That was cer­tainly fun through­out the round see­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent people that I know.”

Ja­pan’s Nasa Hataoko, Thai­land’s Ariya Ju­tanu­garn and Mari­ajo Uribe of Colom­bia were the lead­ers af­ter the first round Thurs­day, each rip­ping through the course and fin­ish­ing with a score of 8-un­der 64.

The top Cana­dian was Hen­der­son, who was right in the thick of things tied for sixth with six other play­ers af­ter card­ing a 6-un­der 66.

Among the other Cana­di­ans at par or bet­ter was ama­teur Naomi Ko, who was four shots off the pace af­ter a 4-un­der 68. Chas­ing her were Anne-Catherine Tan­guay and Maude-Aimee Leblanc (2 un­der), Alena Sharp and Ce­leste Dao (1 un­der) and El­lie Sz­eryk (even).

When I was 20, I was very ner­vous and shy. It’s dif­fer­ent to kind of just en­joy it and not be a lit­tle fright­ened. BOBBI BRAN­DON, Saska­toon golfer

TROY FLEECE

Brooke Hen­der­son, of Smiths Falls, Ont., is at 6-un­der 66 af­ter the first round of the CP Women’s Open at Was­cana Coun­try Club in Regina.

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