AURORA, Ont.– Brooke Henderson started right where she ended last year. On top of the CP Women’s Open leaderboard. Amidst the pressure of defending on home soil, the Smith Falls, Ontario native got off to a riveting start. Shooting an opening round 66 to take the clubhouse lead, Henderson once again secured her front-running position, generating six birdies and no bogeys on the card.
One would think that standing on the first tee at your national championship would be filled with nerves and butterflies. But not for the nine-time LPGA winner Brooke Henderson.
“I think I was a lot more relaxed and more confident than
I have been other years stepping on the 1st tee just
knowing I have done this before. I have handled the
pressure,” stated Henderson after her round.
Brooke Henderson Leans Heavily on Prior Knowledge of Magna Golf Club for Success
When Brooke Henderson won on the plains of Wascana Country Club last year, she instantly asserted herself as a Canadian icon. No Canadian-born female had won the CP Women’s Open on home soil since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973. The 21-year old continued her meteoric success during the 2019 season, winning twice to become the winningest Canadian golfer (male or female).
But the young golfing phenom’s sights were on her anticipated title defense at the illustrious Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario. A first time host of the CP Women’s Open, Magna presents a difficult challenge for the best female golfers in the world. With fast fairways and challenging slopes in the greens, it requires landing the ball at a precise target and making lengthy putts. Knowledge that Henderson received from Magna Golf Club’s head professional Mike McMahon.
“Mike is great,” exclaimed Henderson. “He helped at media day, taking
us around the course. We didn’t play, but he gave us
some hints and tips. It was really helpful and gave me the confidence off the tee today.”
Possessing the local ins and outs of Magna Golf Club certainly translated to Brooke Henderson’s fast start at the CP Women’s Open. The World No. 8 missed only two fairways (12 of 14), two greens (16 of 18), was perfect scrambling (1 for 1) and required just 28 putts.
Henderson would be the first to express her wish to improve her putting; she is currently ranked 66th on the LPGA Tour in terms of putting average (30.09). But today, the Canadian appeared comfortable and at ease with the putter, particularly with her 14 foot birdie on 15 and her statement birdie on 18 to go to six-under for the day.
“My putter was really hot, especially for me today, which was
really exciting,” said Henderson.
Henderson’s Road to Title Defense More Difficult
To have Brooke Henderson leading the tournament after the first round is astonishing and remarkable. The script could not be written more impeccably; Henderson’s last four rounds at the CP Women’s Open have been no worse than second.
What becomes more challenging for the defending champion is not just the conditions of the golf course but conquering the pressure of expectations. There are plenty of quality golfers eager to chase and claim the title away from Henderson, including World No. 4 Minjee Lee, 2014 ANA Inspiration Champion Lexi Thompson and fellow Canadian Anne-Catharine Tanguay.
But in the most adverse moments, Henderson exudes the most calm. Her grounded persona is maintained through her close relationship with her Dad and sister/caddie, Brittany. And with the Brooke Brigade growing by the minute, Henderson will look to rely on the zealous crowd support to carry her to success this week.
“To have this many people out on Thursday morning is
pretty special. They’re cheering for me bright and early, which is pretty cool,” said Henderson.
Before the tournament started, Brooke Henderson stated that “the odds are stacked against her” in winning on home soil. But given her unexpected rise to golfing fame, do not put anything past the Canadian to surprise once again.