LONDON, Ont. – Brooke Henderson earned herself more than just a couple of commemorative coins as the low amateur and the low Canadian.
By making the cut at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, the 16-year-old phenom got to play with two LPGA major winners: teenage idol Lexi Thompson and legend Laura Davies. Finishing 2 under for the tournament was gravy compared to how Henderson believes she benefited from the weekend.
“You learn so much more being able to play the weekend because it is different than the first two days,” Henderson said Sunday. “You get to play with the best players. It’s a great experience and I’m very grateful to have been in the position.”
After missing the cut in this event the past two years, Henderson made it 4-for-4 getting to the weekend on the LPGA Tour in 2014. The Smiths Falls, Ont., native tied for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open, 26th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and 45th at the Manulife Financial LPGA Championship.
“I’ve played more LPGA Tour events over the last couple of years and I’m getting more comfortable,” Henderson said. “The more weekends I can play, the more experience I really do gain. I get to know the pros a little bit better and get to play with some new ones and really learn from them.”
With a 2-under 286, Henderson put up the best score by a Canadian at this tournament since Lorie Kane’s 5-under 283 in 2010. Though Kane missed the cut this time, the 49-year-old stuck around as part of her work with the title sponsor, Canadian Pacific, and followed Henderson for her final five holes Saturday.
“That support from such a veteran on the tour and such a role model of mine is amazing,” Henderson said.
Henderson finished two strokes ahead of fellow amateur Jennifer Ha of Calgary, who shot a 74 Sunday to finish at even par. Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., who had the best round of any Canadian with a 67 Thursday, finished with a 76 to drop to 3 over, while Sue Kim of Langley, B.C. shot a 78 and finished at 7 over.
Ha, who goes “back to reality” by returning to school at Kent State University in Ohio on Monday, was glad just to be one of four Canadians to play the weekend.
“I mean, who can’t be happy with a made cut at a professional event in my home country?” Ha said. “I’ve never played an event like this and made the cut, so it was crazy.”
Ha said she felt the love from Canadian fans, but the biggest gallery all four days belonged to Henderson. She never wilted in the spotlight, which will likely only get brighter as her national and international profile increases.
Beginning Monday, Henderson will step out of that spotlight and to the side and bag of her sister, Brittany, who will be at qualifying school to try to get onto the LPGA Tour. Brooke Henderson flies to California on Monday to begin her caddying duties at Q-school.
“I love caddying for my sister, and she caddies for me a lot, so it’s nice to return the favour,” Henderson said. “It will be nice to go out and scout out the course for Q-school because hopefully I’ll be there in the next year or two.”
After that, Henderson will go to Japan to represent Canada along with Augusta James (Bath, Ont.) and Brittany Marchand (Orangeville, Ont.) at the World Amateur Team Championships. When she’s done there it’s back to school and a 17th birthday in September.
“It’ll be cool, nice to see my friends again and to get back to Smiths Falls will be nice,” Henderson said.
Brooke Henderson and Marlene Stewart Streit (Golf Canada/ Bernard Brault)