Amateur savouring stage at LPGA stop in Regina
Fellow Canadian Henderson shoots well in opening round of CP Women’s Open
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
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.