Written by Scott MacLeod, Follow him on Twitter @Flagstick
It’s their national open. Against the best athletes in your sport. With many, many eyes on them. As a result being a Canadian in the CP (Canadian Pacific) Women’s Open (and the variations of the event dating back to 1966) and playing well is a tough task. The opportunity to do so comes again this week in Regina, Saskatchewan as the Wascana Golf & Country Club welcomes a talented field, including at least 14 Canadians.
One Monday we posted a poll on Twitter asking people if they thought a Canadian would finish in the top 5 this week. The response so far has indicated that most people believe it will happen, but historically, it has been a rare occurrence. In fact, since the 1966 SuperTest Open (the predecessor to La Canadienne, CP Women’s Open, etc.) a Canadian has only finished in the top 5 a total of 12 times in 45 tournaments. Just one, Jocelyne Bourassa at the 1973 La Canadienne, managed to win the title.
The last time a Canadian finished in the top five was a 4th place finish by Alena Sharp in 2016 at Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club in Calgary. It was the first time since 2004 the feat had been accomplished. That year both Lorie Kane and Dawn Coe-Jones tied for 5th place. Coincidentally Coe-Jones ($326,554) and Kane ($323,781) are the all-time leading Canadian winners on the CP Women’s Open.
The Home Crowd. Hurt or Help?
While tour players strive to play well every week, most admit that playing in front of a home crowd does come with extra expectations from both internal and external sources. Hamilton, Ontario’s Alena Sharp explained it well a couple of years back when she was asked about playing in the Canadian Open for the first time.
“It was so crazy. I was so nervous on the first tee. I know I hooked it left to the rough. It was rough up to your ankles and I had to chip it out. It was just amazing being announced on the tee, and I had a lot of people watching me. It was just like, whoa, this is what it feels like to be on the LPGA. So glad I’ve gotten over that.”
In turn Sharp says she has used the extra energy of the fan support to help fuel her in more recent times. Again, from a media chat in 2016…
“I think I’ve gotten better at it. The first few years of my career, not so great. I was always nervous and felt like I put a lot of pressure under myself. I feel like I’ve gotten better as I’ve aged and gotten more mature. I don’t know. I just really enjoy it. I love being in front of the crowd and just taking the whole thing in instead of thinking, oh, this is going to be so hard. I try to look at it in a different light. It’s really helped me the last couple years.”
As the top-ranked (#14) Canadian player in the world, and now a 6-time tour winner, no home player will have more eyes on her this week than Brooke Henderson. Last year the 20 year-old thrilled the crowds in Ottawa, just 45 minutes from her hometown of Smiths Falls, as she set a course record 63 in her third round at the CP Women’s Open. The fairy-tale win did not happen the next day but she did tie for 12th. It is her best finish in the event to date. She, too, feels the weight of a nation but, like Sharp, says it bolsters her in some ways.
Asked if she feels the pressure of playing in front of her home nation fans at the 2017 CP Women’s Open, Henderson did not mince words.
“I mean, I know everybody’s out here looking to support me, to cheer me on. I know they’re all on my side. I just, you know, I want to perform to the best of my abilities. Do I feel extra pressure? Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.”
But, she asserts that she gained much from the experience in 2017. She shared what she learned after the final round in the Nation’s capital.
“Patience and just staying in the moment. Trying to embrace these fans because they were cheering me on so hard and wanted me to do so well. I felt like I did a lot better job this year than I’ve ever done at home playing on the home course, just because I just tried to embrace it. Tried to ride their wave of enthusiasm, their momentum. I just tried to match all of the excitement that they had, and I felt like I did a lot better job. That’s really exciting to know that I can do that. I feel like it’s just a stepping stone in the right direction…”
Of course this is not just about winning in Canada on the LPGA Tour, it is about just winning on the LPGA Tour itself. It is an increasingly difficult task and something only two (Kane, Henderson) of the sixteen Canadians confirmed in this year’s CP Women’s Open field have done so far in their careers.
The pressure exerted by 89 of the top 100 players on the LPGA Money List in the field this week may just weigh heavier than the 70,000,000 eyes of a nation when it comes to winning in Regina. That is the reality of the growing level of play on the top women’s tour in the world.
Either way it is a massive task and one a country will be eager to see completed this week.
I mean, we’ve been patient for 45 years, right?
Here is a list of the top 5 finishes all-time for Canadians in their national open:
2016 Alena Sharp 4th
2004 Lorie Kane t-5
2004 Dawn Coe Jones t-5
2001 Lorie Kane t-3
2000 Lorie Kane t-5
1999 Dawn Coe-Jones 4th
1998 Gail Graham t-4
1998 Dawn Coe-Jones t-4
1993 Dawn Coe-Jones 3rd
1987 Barb Bunkoswky t-4
1975 Jocelyne Bourassa t-5
1973 Jocelyne Bourassa 1st
Canadians in the Field, 2018 CP Women’s Open
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