Henderson is in it for the long haul
In no hurry to climb the world ranking list, and for good reason
TORONTO — You leave a conversation with Brooke Henderson with one overwhelming impression.
This is a young athlete with her head screwed on right. An athlete with a solid personal and family base and an intelligent, longterm strategic game plan.
Henderson, 21, is no meteor. She’s in this business for the long haul. If she’s not still a top-20 player on the LPGA Tour a decade from now, it will either be because life throws her an unexpected curve, or by choice.
Probably the best way to understand Henderson, at least from the outside, is to perceive her as a talented, industrious athlete who has comfortably donned the title of greatest Canadian golfer ever like it was something she for which she was destined.
Like Sidney Crosby, you just get the feeling she is exactly where she was always supposed to be.
Both got important items out of the way early in their career that might have otherwise dogged them if left undone. Crosby won a Hart Trophy and became captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins very early in his career, captured a Stanley Cup ring soon after and then an Olympic gold medal in 2010.
Similarly, Henderson won one of the five majors in women’s golf in 2016, and last year ended Canada’s 45-year drought at the CP Women’s Open by winning in Saskatchewan. This year, after winning her eighth tour title in April, she overcame clattering nerves down the stretch to capture her ninth just two months later, making her the winningest Canadian golfer of either gender in history.
“I wanted to get that ninth win pretty quickly,” she said. “I think being so close to making history like that kind of hit me at the end. I’m glad I only had to make par on the 18th hole to win.”
Now, we just sit back and watch as the years unfold to see what more Henderson can accomplish. As she comes to the GTA this week as the star attraction of the 2019 CP Women’s Open at Magna Golf Club in Aurora as arguably the most influential player on the hotly competitive LPGA Tour, who really knows what her resume will look like when all is said and done?
“Every year I get little bit better, understand a little more, get a little more confident with more situations,” she says. “Everything is trending really well right now.”
Interestingly, the objectives she cites are incremental, not historical.
“The big thing for me is scoring average,” she explained the other day in an interview with The Toronto Star.
“If that’s below 70, well, I know I’m going to be in contention and will have opportunities to win. That’s all I want. The chance to hoist some more trophies.”
With two tour wins this season, she sits comfortably sixth on the LPGA money list and No. 8 in the Rolex World Golf Rankings, no immediate threat to world No. 1 Jin-Young Ko of South Korea, and no sense of urgency to catch her.
“The thing with going for No. 1 is I would probably have to play less events,” she said, referring to the complicated mathematical formula that spits out such rankings. “Playing more events kind of burns you a little bit with the rankings. So it’s not a huge thing for me.”
It was this time last year at the Wascana Country Club in Regina when Henderson’s father, Dave, ran on to the 18th green after his daughter had sunk the final putt to win the CP Women’s Open and doused both his daughter and her sister/caddy, Brittany, with champagne. Henderson won going away with a brilliant 65 on the final day, becoming the first Canadian since Jocelyn Bourassa in 1973 to win on home soil.
“That week was special,” she said. “Everything seemed to go my way. I knew in the final round I needed something unique to get the job done because so many were close to the lead.”
Many are curious to see how the world’s best female golfers will attack the exclusive Magna course starting Thursday, although Henderson’s power off the tee should hold her in good stead on the layout’s generous fairways.
“Knowing I am capable of winning because I’ve done it in the past helps, gives me that extra bit of confidence and maybe even momentum,” she said. “Last summer, prior to the event, I figured out a nice balance of when I should do media, when I should spend time with fans, when I needed to get practice done and when to call it an early day. Hopefully I can repeat that this year, find that balance again.”
She’s more than aware that another Canadian female athlete in another sport, 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, became the first Canadian in 50 years to win the tennis version of the Canadian Open, now known as the Rogers Cup.
Henderson was watching, and tweeted out her congratulations afterwards.
“It was really amazing to watch (Andreescu) play, really exciting,” said Henderson.
“Even though I don’t play tennis, it was impressive how athletic and powerful she was. Watching that inspired me.”
She’s has to dig deep to find something in her game she’s not happy with, and settles on sand saves (39.62 per cent, 101st on tour). Perhaps also her results in the five major tournaments in women’s golf (nothing higher than 17th).
She’s digging in for the long haul, proud and content to have a few of the trickiest tasks for a Canadian golfer out of the way, and eager to expand the horizons for herself and for golfers in her country.
Brooke Henderson has comfortably donned the title of greatest Canadian golfer ever, Damien Cox writes. You just get the feeling she is exactly where she was always supposed to be.