They could, in time, wind up being fused forever in our collective imagination. The way Jack and Arnie were. Are.
Or Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright. Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. A rivalry to define a generation.
There is that chance. A very real chance. They’re both just teenagers, prodigious toddlers actually, with a big, wide world of golfing nuance yet to explore.
Ko vs. Henderson.
Has a nice ring to it. Looks absolutely smashing up in twinkling lights on a marquee.
In a strong field, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson are destined to be front and centre at Priddis Greens outside Calgary, Aug. 25-28, when the CP Canadian Women’s Open treks back west. Different storylines for an identical aim.
Ko will be endeavouring to collect her fourth Canadian title in five years, a truly extraordinary accomplishment for anyone, yet someone so young; while Henderson looks to hunt down a first national professional championship and join only Jocelyne Bourassa way back in 1973 as a Canadian winner of our national title.
Given their ages, their abilities and their mutual approach to excellence, golf buffs are anticipating this being a must-watch for the next decade or more.
Great rivalries are healthy for sport.
And if this becomes one, they’ve got one helluva first act to build on: Henderson dropping a 7-iron out of the sky from 155 yards away to within three feet for a tap-in bird and her first LPGA Major title, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club, outside Seattle.
In coming from behind to beat the world’s consensus No. 1, Henderson identified herself as the prime contender to the title.
The best part of all this being the attitude both women bring to the course.
Rivalries need not necessarily be duelling-pistols-at-20-paces. They can also be forged on admiration, common ambition and a may-the-best-player-win attitude.
“She’s one of the nicest girls you’d ever want to meet,’’ enthuses Henderson of Ko. “She’s not out there to beat others, she’s out there to beat the golf course; to be better herself. Which I think it’s an amazing way to look at the game, at competition. I try to do the same thing.”
“Golf is about honestly, perseverance and respect, adds Henderson. “She’s a great example of that. I think it’s really cool. She’s 19. I’m going to be 19. Hopefully we do have that rivalry – if that’s what you want to call it – for the next 10 years, push each other to be better and better. That’s good for us, good for the game.”
“If we had more playoffs like KPMG … even if I was one the losing end of all of those for the next 10 years I think it’d be incredible to be at that level, at her level.”
Henderson’s sister, sometimes caddy and aspiring LPGAer, Brittany, says the atmosphere inside the ropes is no different than it seems from outside.
“Well, we hope it’s going to be like that,’’ she said, smiling. “Not so much a rivalry, exactly. But seeing them playing well week after week, in contention for tournaments. They’re friends. Both so composed. Seem mature way beyond their years.”
“Our dad, I know, was a positive influence on us, taught us about sports and being a good person in general. He deserves a lot of credit for what Brooke has done. Lydia, I think it’s her mom that helps her. So parents should get their due.”
“What both Brooke and Lydia are doing is remarkable. It really is. I don’t know how they’re doing it. I wish someone would’ve told me, let me in on the secret.”
When Ko passed through Calgary earlier in the summer the head-to-head battle at Sahalee had yet to be waged. But she had – and has, no doubt – nothing but positive things to say about Henderson.
“I’ve known Brooke since we were both amateurs,’’ said the two-time major winner. “Obviously she had a great amateur career. I feel like she’s had an even more amazing professional career. She’s doing amazing things for the up-and-coming juniors, for the women’s game and growing the game in Canada.”
“She’s doing fantastic. Putting herself in good positions week in and week out. She’s an impressive player, hits the ball a long way but is also very consistent and one of the best putters out there. So, yeah, I think it’s exciting. I think Canada is going to be very excited for the Olympics. A player like Brooke is going to grow golf in Canada the way Lorie (Kane) did.”
Both women had the opportunity to tour the 6,681-yard, par-72 layout earlier in the summer, Ko during that stopover in early June, Henderson in late July.
“I really like it,’’ adjudged Henderson. “It’s tree-lined, there’s lots of elevation change. More back to the grass I grew up on. The views are phenomenal.
I’m excited to come back here in just a few weeks and play in our national championship. I’m excited for the Canadian fans, too. Over the last couple of years, my fans at this tournament have just continued to grow and the fairways were lined last year, so I’m excited to see what this year holds.’’
The top two female players on the planet. One an adopted citizen of Canada by way of wins and support; the other the genuine article, born and reared in Smiths Falls, Ont.
It quite simply doesn’t get much better than the anticipation the Open at Priddis Greens. A rivalry to define a generation? Like Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley? Anika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb? Tiger and Lefty?
Well, early indications are that the chance most certainly exists. And time is very much on their side.
Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson.
Their names fused together forever in the collective imagination; both linked to high achievements, low scores and the sight of the two of them walking side by side on late Sunday afternoons, the last ones on course atop the leaderboard as the sun begins to set and the shadows lengthen.