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Brooke steals the show in Ottawa

31 AUG 2017

By Peter Mumford

If you were paying attention to the lead-up to the CP Canadian Women’s Open, you might have thought there was only one player in the tournament. Brooke Henderson of Smith Falls, Ontario was featured on signs and billboards and magazine covers all over the National Capital region as the championship was preparing to kick off at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club. She was even featured on the tournament program cover and interviewed several times on local radio and TV.

Media attention isn’t unusual for Henderson, who has four victories on the LPGA Tour including a major, but the level of excitement surrounding this year’s CP Canadian Women’s Open was unparalleled and way beyond anything she had experienced so far in her young career. Added to the normal tournament pressure was that Brooke was listed as one of the tournament favourites and, as the leading Canadian on the LPGA tour, she was constantly billed as the best bet to win her national championship.

It’s been 63 years since a Canadian won the national title on the men’s side and 44 years since Jocelyne Bourassa secured victory in the inaugural Canadian Women’s Open in 1973. That first event was called La Canadienne and was Bourassa’s first and only win on the LPGA Tour. It has become something of an obsession for Canadian golf fans and the longer we go without a home grown winner, the more the pressure will build.

Brooke was certainly everybody’s favourite coming into this year’s championship and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a 19-year old kid. She got off to a rocky start on Thursday and needed a birdie on her final hole on Friday just to make the cut. Despite the fact that she wasn’t one of the tournament leaders, Henderson still had the largest crowd following her and she handled the added attention in stride.

"I hit the ball for the majority extremely well and just the putter kind of let me down at times," Henderson said following her second round. "But you know, the crowds were amazing. There was a lot of great things happening out there, and like I said, my ball-striking was awesome. It was like right on, and just hopefully tomorrow I can make a couple more of those 10-footers, 15-footers, and then we'll see what happens."

What happened of course was that on Saturday she set a course record 8-under 63 to jump up the leaderboard and into contention for Sunday’s final round – just three shots off the lead. Naturally, that had her huge crowds in a frenzy and put even more pressure on Henderson to grab that elusive national title.

Unfortunately, Brooke couldn’t maintain the momentum on Sunday and her even par 71 left her in a tie for 12th.

"She had so much pressure on her this week," said Cristie Kerr, who played with Henderson in the first, second and final rounds. "You know, more than a major, I told her. I was joking around, but it was true. Look at the people out here for her, they all want her to do well, and she wants to do really well for them."

Henderson acknowledged that the added pressure of winning her national championship did weigh on her mind.

“I wasn’t nervous but I had some tension,” she later admitted. “I wanted it so badly that it affected me a little bit with some of the shots that I hit.”

Even if she didn’t win, Brooke carried herself like a champion throughout the week. Always smiling and always gracious with the crowds, she signed autographs, gave interviews and carried out her unofficial duties as the tournament’s ambassador without complaint. She clearly relishes the role and the Ottawa golf fans certainly showed their appreciation for her efforts.

"It was amazing," said Henderson "The crowds were incredible, and to have that support behind me from the very start of the week, Monday, when they were out here following me and cheering me on, it was so amazing. Today didn't go quite as well as I would have liked, but still having that support around me was amazing, and I'm going to remember this week forever."

She may not have won the tournament but as they say on Broadway, she stole the show.

And just to keep the focus on Brooke a bit longer, this week she’s in Portland, Oregon where she will look to defend the Cambia Portland Classic title that she has won the last two years.

Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag