Smiths Falls na­tive opens up on tourney suc­cess, chal­lenges and loss of grand­fa­thers

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - TIM BAINES [email protected]­

She’s only 21 years old, but golfer Brooke Hen­der­son has al­ready won US$4,802,830 on the LPGA Tour — $1,473,247 of that in 2018 when she was named both the Post­media and Cana­dian Press Fe­male Ath­lete of the Year.

From small-town Smiths Falls, Hen­der­son has seven ca­reer wins on the ladies pro­fes­sional tour, in­clud­ing a sen­sa­tional vic­tory at last Au­gust’s CP Women’s Open in Regina.

Along with the suc­cess on the golf course in 2018, though, there was per­sonal heart­break — both her grand­fa­thers died.

Hen­der­son, who is ninth in the Rolex rank­ings, opens her LPGA 2019 sea­son at the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons, Jan. 17-20 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. She’s play­ing in Mor­gan Pres­sel’s char­ity event Mon­day, then she’ll play in Brit­tany Lin­ci­come’s char­ity event Wed­nes­day.

With a home in Naples, Fla., Hen­der­son is putting in plenty of prac­tice time. Her sis­ter Brit­tany is her caddy and her par­ents, Dave and Dar­lene, have also played huge roles in her suc­cess.

With so much ahead of her in her al­ready sen­sa­tional ca­reer, Hen­der­son took time to speak to Post­media News.

Q Can you re­flect on the 2018 golf sea­son, a year that, for you, fea­tured two wins on the LPGA Tour?

A It was re­ally a good year. Com­pe­ti­tion is al­ways so tough and it seems to just be get­ting tougher. My game was re­ally good at some points of the year. The end re­sults showed that. Hav­ing my scor­ing av­er­age un­der 70 (69.99) for the first time was a big goal of mine and I’m happy to have ac­com­plished that. My driv­ing dis­tance was high (268.43 yards) and my greens in reg­u­la­tion (74.51 per cent) was high as well. Those are good things that prove my game is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Get­ting back into the Top 10 was re­ally ex­cit­ing. I put my­self in con­tention quite a few times last sum­mer. I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily get the job done ev­ery time, but it’s fun to be in those fi­nal groups.

Q Win­ning the CP Women’s Open had to be ex­tra spe­cial for you. What was that mo­ment like when your fi­nal shot went in the hole and you had won?

A To make that putt on 18, it was only three feet but I was shak­ing pretty bad. To have my fam­ily and friends rush onto the green and cel­e­brate with me, it’s some­thing I’ll re­mem­ber for­ever. The fans started singing O Canada and cheer­ing my name ... win­ning that tro­phy and win­ning that event was so im­por­tant and mean­ing­ful to me. I didn’t know when or if I’d ever win it, but to do it so soon in my ca­reer — it was re­ally spe­cial.

Q As good as 2018 was for you pro­fes­sion­ally, you also had per­sonal heart­break: Both your grand­fa­thers passed away. What fond mem­o­ries do you have of your mom’s dad Robert Moir and your dad’s dad Clem Hen­der­son?

A They were great peo­ple who played a huge role in my life. I had a lot of great times with both of them. They be­lieved in me and they al­ways cheered for me. I’ll never for­get that.

Q You’ve al­ready won nearly $5 mil­lion on the LPGA Tour. Can suc­cess be mea­sured in dol­lars?

A I feel like if you’re play­ing well and do­ing good things, the money sort of comes. My goals this year are to keep my world rank­ing in­side the Top 10 and get my scor­ing av­er­age un­der 70 again. If I’m able to do that, the money will come.

Q Does the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity take some of the stress away from the daily grind?

A There can be a lot of stress. I’m in a po­si­tion now where it’s not as stress­ful as it was when I started out. It was re­ally rough

that first year. I didn’t have sta­tus on any tour and I was just try­ing to make my way as a 17-year-old — that can be sort of stress­ful. I’m re­ally happy ev­ery­thing has worked out this way. I’m look­ing for­ward to the next cou­ple of years on tour.

Q What’s an area of your game where you be­lieve you can still take big strides ahead?

A Be­ing a golfer, I don’t think any­thing will ever be per­fect. There’s al­ways stuff I work on. My ball strik­ing has al­ways been a strength. I’ve been work­ing a lot on my short game with my dad, who’s also my coach. We’ve been try­ing to im­prove the lit­tle things which will make me more con­sis­tent.

Q You bought a home in Naples. Tell us about the home away from home.

A It’s nice to have some­where to un­pack things and hang out while I’m train­ing. It’ll never be quite like home in Canada. But it’s per­fect for me. I can train and prac­tise as much as I want to and it’s in a great area as well. So it works out per­fectly.

Q You were named the Post­media and Cana­dian Press Ath­lete of the Year. What does it mean to you when you get rec­og­nized with awards?

A It’s re­ally awe­some, es­pe­cially be­ing in an Olympic year with so many tal­ented ath­letes. It just kind of gives me a lit­tle mo­ti­va­tion to work a lit­tle harder.

Q You dropped the puck at an Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors game in De­cem­ber. Was that as nerve-rack­ing as sink­ing a 20-foot putt?

A Yeah, ab­so­lutely. It was in­cred­i­ble. It was re­ally an hon­our. I didn’t re­ally bring them good luck that day (the Sen­a­tors lost 4-0 to the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals).

Q Do you fol­low the Sen­a­tors from afar?

A My par­ents try to keep us up­dated on how they’re do­ing. But on the road, it does get busy. I lose touch with it a bit.

Q Your sis­ter Brit­tany, who’s also your caddy, was in­ducted into the Coastal Carolina Univer­sity Ath­letic Hall of Fame last year. How big a part has she played in your suc­cess?

A She’s been huge. Hav­ing some­body I can de­pend on, some­body who’s al­ways there for me, is so im­por­tant. I’m re­ally proud of her. I was there to cel­e­brate with her. It was a re­ally proud mo­ment for her and also for me to watch her ac­cept it. She’s al­ways been by my side. I don’t think a lot of things I’ve done would hap­pen with­out some­body I can trust so much. She’s al­ways there for sup­port.

Q Does Brit­tany have to be big sis­ter when you’re on the road or is it more of a friend­ship thing?

A She still looks af­ter me some­times when I do dumb things. Older sis­ters al­ways do that. We’re best friends and we re­spect each other so much. We work through things to­gether. I’m al­ways go­ing to have a friend here in Britt, some­body to talk to and some­body I can share in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences with. That’s what makes our jour­ney work.

Q What do you ex­pect from your­self in 2019?

A I’m re­ally ex­cited for this year. I still have a whole lot of work to do be­fore the sea­son starts, but I’m re­ally ex­cited to get it go­ing. The goal of get­ting my scor­ing av­er­age un­der 70 is a big one. I’m hop­ing that puts me in con­tention on Sun­days in quite a few events. I also want to win twice in the sea­son. I know that will be dif­fi­cult to do.

Q You played 28 tour­na­ments last year. How tough are the rigours of the tour — men­tally and phys­i­cally?

A It gets you most men­tally. You have to make sure you get proper rest. I started to take Mon­days off when I got into the heat of the sum­mer when it was re­ally busy — to rest and try to get en­ergy back in my mind and body. That worked out well for me. It’s tough when you’re go­ing through things on and off the course, but I came through it re­ally well. Hope­fully this year, I can take that and be a bit bet­ter.

Q Talk about the im­por­tance to you of the three Fs — faith, fam­ily and friends.

A Faith is a huge part of my life. I feel like it’s got me through so many things, it’s got me to where I am. My fam­ily — my mom and my dad sac­ri­ficed so much so I could be where I am. It’s re­ally cool to me that I’m able to share my jour­ney with not only my sis­ter ev­ery day, but also my par­ents, who were able to travel to about half the events (last year) and are there to help me train. My dad’s my coach and my mom’s al­ways there to sup­port me and do what­ever she can to help me im­prove. Friends, I’m re­ally grate­ful I have amaz­ing peo­ple back home in Canada that have stood by me through my whole jour­ney, plus I’ve made some friends along the way.

Q You proudly stand be­hind the Cana­dian flag and you’re proud to say you’re from Smiths Falls, the com­mu­nity you’re from — how im­por­tant are your roots?

A Be­ing an­nounced from Canada on the first tee is so cool. Ev­ery day, I’m rep­re­sent­ing Canada — that makes me re­ally proud, it’s a huge hon­our. I was just in Smiths Falls for two weeks (for Christ­mas); it was a lot of fun to be back. I al­ways like go­ing back home and see­ing fam­ily and friends that I don’t get to see much dur­ing the year. As well, it snowed, so I was re­ally happy about that.


Brooke Hen­der­son’s LPGA 2019 sea­son-open­ing event is the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons Jan. 17-20 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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