Hen­der­son is in it for the long haul

In no hurry to climb the world rank­ing list, and for good rea­son

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - DAMIEN COX

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

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.

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