Canadians Contending at Ko Olina

Brooke Henderson waits to tee off in round one of the Lotte Championship presented by Hershey. Photo: Reid Ogata

The wind was blowing hard at Hawaii’s Ko Olina Golf Club on Wednesday but some of the Canadians playing the LPGA’s Lotte Championship hardly seemed to notice.

Round one found all five Canadians in the field wearing ribbons to honour those involved in last week’s horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash. It appeared to spur a few of them on.

Former standout goalie Brooke Henderson led the way for the Canadians. The five-time tour winner put on a ball-striking exhibition on her way to a 68 (-4). She shares second place overall. The round could have been even lower with several missed birdie opportunities from short-range but she also converted a few lengthy par saves so the day balanced out. She was bogey free on the day.

“The wind was very strong today, quite challenging, especially on the back nine,” Henderson commented. “But I was able to make a couple par saves to keep myself in it and make birdie putts when I could. I’m happy, and hopefully I can just do something similar the next few days.”

Asked about the putting and the misses and makes, she put a positive spin on it.  “I made a lot of clutch ten-footers inside for par, which really keeps my round going, keeps momentum, which is really nice. Like I said, I hit ball really well and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities, and I was able to make four of them.”

While Henderson had to stay very focused in the win, she reflected on the importance of the ribbons all the Canadians were wearing to honour the Humboldt Broncos, especially given her own hockey background.

“..to be able to honor them and to remember those that have passed away and all the survivors that are fighting for their life and overcoming the injuries that they had there. It was pretty terrible what happened. They’re in my thoughts and prayers.  I loved playing hockey growing up. I think it gave me a lot of mental strength and a lot of physical strength as well. The teammates and the friends that I made there I’ll have for life. So, you know, when you see something like that, when they lose their closest friends, it’s really touching.”

Positive Return For Sharp

Playing in the morning wave, Alena Sharp turned in a clean 69 (-3) and is tied for 5th heading into round two. Sharp finished 5th in the 2017 Lotte Championship and she explained her comfort at the event after she completed play.

“I felt great about how I played. Was really calm coming into today. I love coming to Hawaii. It’s just got that positive energy. I feel like every time I come here just kind of has this zen feeling. Worked a little bit in the wind the last couple days and knew it was going to be windy. I’ve played here a lot when it’s been breezy, so I stayed patient and tried to keep the pressure nice and loose and the arms nice and loose. I’ve played here so many times I kind of know what to do with this wind. I feel like I just used my experience to my advantage.”

It was Sharp’s caddy and partner, Sarah Bowman, who arranged the tribute bows for all the players. Sharp reflected on the gesture.

“It’s such a tragic thing that happened,” added Sharp. “I played hockey growing up and we were on a lot of bus trips. You just can’t imagine what it’s like. They were going to a playoff game. They’re young men. It’s just so sad. Just wanted to show our support any way we could. We’re going to Saskatchewan this summer to the Canadian Open, and we just wanted to show the community we’re there and supporting them.”

Rookie Debut

Making her LPGA debut for 2018, Orangeville, Ontario’s Brittany Marchand turned in a commendable 72 (E) and will look to make her first cut as a TOUR member when she tees off Thursday morning.

One back of Marchand, at a score of 73, was Quebec’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc who fought back with two late birdies to get inside the top 40.

The final Canadian in the field, Anne-Catherine Tanguay, had a nightmare start to her day with a quintuple bogey on the 10th hole (her 1st) and could not regain any ground. She finished with an 81.

China’s Shanshan Feng leads the way at -5.

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