2016 HSBC Women’s Champions

The new face of golf in Canada

Brooke Henderson's big goal is taking the world No. 1 spot from fellow 18-year-old Lydia Koh.
Brooke Henderson's big goal is taking the world No. 1 spot from fellow 18-year-old Lydia Koh.PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Henderson enjoys the challenge of carrying the torch for her country at big golf tournaments

When one thinks of Canadian sports, ice hockey and perhaps lacrosse spring instantly to mind.

While women's golf is nowhere near as popular, Brooke Henderson is well on course to changing that perception.

The 18-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ontario, re-wrote history last August when she became the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour since Lorie Kane in 2001, claiming the top spot in the Cambia Portland Classic.

Henderson was then granted Tour membership and has made significant progress in what she described as a "whirlwind" rookie season. She is currently ranked 12th in the world, a huge jump from March last year when she was ranked 202nd.

Given her status as Canada's leading golfer, she told The Straits Times: "Currently I'm the face of Canadian golf, and, when little children and people of all ages come up to me and say how proud they are of me just because they're Canadian and things like that, it's pretty cool."

PROUD TO BE CANADIAN AND DOING WELL

When little children and people of all ages come up to me and say how proud they are of me just because they're Canadian and things like that, it's pretty cool.

BROOKE HENDERSON

Yet, the teenager is not a new face in women's golf, having already made waves before turning professional in December 2014.

As an amateur, she won three events on the CN Canadian Women's Tour and finished tied for 10th place in the 2014 US Women's Open at 16.

Before taking the step up, she was the top-ranked woman amateur golfer in the world.

  • EVENT DETAILS

  • WHEN: Today to Sunday

    WHERE: Sentosa Golf Club, Serapong Course

    PRIZE MONEY: US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million)

    WHO: An elite 63-woman field with 18 of the world's top 20 golfers, including Lydia Ko, Park In Bee, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson.

  • SELECTED TEE-OFF TIMES:
    Tee 1 8.10am: Charley Hull (Eng) 8.22am: Jessica Korda, Anna Nordqvist (Swe) 8.34am: Brittany Lincicome, Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha) 8.46am: Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Julieta Granada (Par) 8.58am: Choi Na Yeon (Kor) 9.10am: Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen (Nor), Ryu So Yeon (Kor) 9.22am: Angela Stanford, Karrie Webb (Aus), Ai Miyazato (Jpn) 9.34am: Brooke Henderson (Can), Minjee Lee (Aus), Chun In Gee (Kor) 9.46am: Park In Bee (Kor), Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis 9.58am: Lydia Ko (Nzl), Feng Shanshan (Chn), Amy Yang (Kor) 10.10am: Lexi Thompson, Haru Nomura (Jpn), Jang Ha Na (Kor)

    Tee 10 8.22am: Tseng Ya-ni (Tpe) 8.34am: Kim Sei Young (Kor) 8.46am: Koh Sock Hwee (Sin) 9.10am: Lin Xiyu (Chn), Sandra Gal (Ger) Note: USA unless stated

  • TICKETS: Daily from $20, season pass is $60. On sale through Sistic. Price does not include entry to the island or booking fees. Free entry for those aged 16 and below. Take That concert tickets on Saturday sold separately, from $138.

  • GETTING THERE: Free shuttle service between HarbourFront bus interchange and Sentosa Golf Club (public entrance) every 15 minutes, from 7am to 5.40pm.

Tipped as one of the brightest prospects of the sport, she earned a Symetra Tour (the LPGA Tour's developmental tour) card after her first professional win at the Four Winds Invitational last June, just two months before her milestone victory in Portland.

With top 10 finishes in her last three tournaments, Henderson is "hoping to keep that rolling," and to "get off to a fast start" today in her first time tackling Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course at this week's HSBC Women's Champions.

Beyond doing well in the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) tournament, Henderson also aims to continue re-writing history by being the first Canadian to win a Major since Sandra Post won the LPGA Championship in 1968, with the Olympics also a "big goal" for her.

Also intending to wrestle the world No. 1 spot from fellow 18-year-old Lydia Ko, she said: "I think that's everybody's goal here, I've moved up my ranking from way over 200 down to 12 right now.

"I know it's possible," she added. "I just have a lot of work to do."

The two teenagers are not the only ones in the 63-strong field this week, with Australia's Minjee Lee (world No. 16) and England's Charley Hull (No. 35), both 19, also keen to make a statement in the tournament's ninth edition.

Yet, being the only Canadian in the field and in the top 100, Henderson relishes the challenge of carrying the torch for her country.

She said: "Sometimes (I feel) a little bit (of pressure), in the Canadian Open and events back home in Canada, but it's always fun, and positive pressure's always good."

"It's exciting where I am at this age. Hopefully I have a long period on the LPGA Tour, and over that long career (I can) get closer to No. 1 and hopefully stay there."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'THE NEW FACE OF GOLF IN CANADA'. Print Edition | Subscribe