/ Scott MacLeod @Flagstick
It was meant as a celebration of their success but the most famous sisters from Smiths Falls, Ontario, Brooke and Brittany Henderson, ensured that a fête back in their hometown was not all about them, but those in attendance as well.
It was equal part celebration and inspiration on Friday as more than 600 school children joined many adults for a party in Centennial Park along the Rideau Canal. There was also a heavy sprinkling of Henderson relatives, including a group of young cousins that eventually led the girls through a throng of school children to the presentation stage. Their parents, Dave and Darlene Henderson, sat by their side through the day.
Hometown time has been a rare commodity for Brooke, the 3rd ranked women’s golfer in the world, along with her older sister and caddy, Brittany. They’ve made the trek back to Eastern Ontario just four times since Christmas.
But, it’s been fruitful time away.
The younger Henderson has won twice on the LPGA Tour this season, including a major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and just recently finished in 7th at the Olympic golf competition. It was these accomplishments that the town, and the people in it, wanted to recognize.
Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow, one of the dignitary guests on the day that included music, speeches, and presentations, was elated that they were able to recognize two of their finest citizens.
“We wanted an opportunity to let them know how we really feel about them. They know we love them; they know we admire what they are doing. At the same time we want to make sure we express that to them and also, the whole community and to Canada and the golf world at large that we’re very proud of these young women, proud of the success that have had in such a short period of time, and at a young age.”
For Brooke herself, amongst greeting a lot of familiar faces with hugs, high fives and excited waves, a smile never left her face for the three or so hours of the celebration. That personal joy carried through as she spoke about the day and what it meant to her.
“It’s so special today to have everyone out, and wearing red and white. I just looked over and there is tons and tons of people so it’s really, really cool, and it’s really an exciting day and it really means a lot to me that the town would do this and everyone would come out. I love coming back home.”
While much praise was given to the girls during speeches by various people, it did not only focus on their accomplishments to date, but what it has meant to the people in the town of 9,000. When Mayor Pankow polled the youthful crowd about what profession they wanted to be, the mention of “professional golfer like Brooke Henderson” evoked the loudest cheer.
Brooke herself carried the theme into her words to the assembly. She told the kids about how she would often write the Olympic motto on her school note books, and urged them them all to strive to be “faster, higher, stronger, ” in all that they do.
She conveyed that it was not so long ago that she was among them and that they too could pursue their dreams, just as she had.
“I remember being those kids’ shoes and looking up to other athletes and other people,” Brooke shared, ” so hopefully today we can inspire some people.”
The formal part of the day concluded with the presentation of a plaque recognizing the milestones of the girls so far. It will be part of a larger display in town that will shed light on the accomplishments of any resident who achieves extraordinary success. Brooke was also given a Canadian flag signed by Smiths Falls citizens that was originally sent to her in Rio de Janeiro but was returned by Brazilian authorities to it’s origin point. She accepted it proudly, immediately unfurling it and placing it around her shoulders in a traditional Olympic photo pose.
Having just played the last two weeks in Canada and after enjoying a “rest week” back home (where they got out to play and practice at Rideau Lakes G&CC and the Ottawa Hunt & GC), Brooke and Brittany now turn their attention to the final LPGA Major of season. The duo fly out to France Saturday (on Brooke’s 19th birthday) for the Evian Championship. Even after 23 events in her rearview mirror this year, Brooke says she is ready for more golf and more opportunities.
“I feel like my game is in a really good spot. Although I haven’t had the finishes that I would really like the last two months or so, I feel like it’s very close to being really good so I’m looking forward to France this week and I’m looking forward to the Asian swing in just a few weeks. To start off the season I had nine top tens in a row and then two wins, including a major championship, so it’s been an awesome year and hopefully I can cap it off with another win or a couple more top tens.”