By Chris Stevenson
RYE, N.Y. – The wind was blowing pretty hard again Wednesday at Westchester Country Club.
Add that to its length (6,670 yards), rolling terrain and wickedly undulating greens and it’s going to be a stout test for the field in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship which gets underway Thursday.
“It looks like it’s going to play tough and long especially if the wind picks up. It’ll be a good test of the game,” said Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont. “You’ve really got to be smart because some of the greens out here are pretty tricky. It’s a real test and it’s a major championship so it’s going to be fun.”
Henderson, the 17-year-old who’s playing in her first major as a pro, has had two trips over the famous layout, which for years hosted the PGA Tour.
She should have a bit of an advantage with her length off the tee – she’s averaging about 260 yards – to set up some approaches into the green complexes, many of them perched.
She hit an approach into the par-5 fifth hole on Tuesday pretty deeply into the green only to see it spin back, catch a slope and roll off the green.
“The greens are fast and slopey. You’ve got be aware of where the slopes are where you can be aggressive and where par is good,” she said. “You have to be really careful of the false fronts here. Staying below the hole, yes, but making sure you’re on the green to start.”
Henderson has her father, Dave, on the bag for her and they went back out Wednesday to try and get a better handle on the greens.
As the wind howled and they made their way up to the 17th green, Dave made a prediction:
“Three under wins it,” he said.
Canada will also be represented by Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Toronto and Sue Kim from Langley, B.C.
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Henderson played in the pro-am on Tuesday and made a great impression on one of her partners, professional dancer Tony Dovolani, a veteran of the popular television show Dancing With The Stars.
Dovolani, no slouch on the course with a 3.5 handicap index, came away raving about Henderson’s personality and the way she treated the amateurs in her group.
“To find out she is that sweet, to find out that she is that giving as a player, information wise, helping them with their swings, giving them high props, she’s really sweet. I couldn’t have been happier to be paired up with her,” he said.
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Like a lot of people, he sees big things ahead for Henderson.
“Talent needs nurturing, talent needs training, talent needs dedication and she absolutely is putting all of that into it,” he said. “The results speak for themselves. She’s already got three wins. She’s turned pro and now it’s time for her to really show the rest of the world what she’s capable of as a pro.”
Chris Stevenson will be following the progress of Brooke Henderson this week from the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Rye, New York.