By Chris Stevenson, Rideau View Golf Insider
So, when do we get to do that again?
Short of Brooke Henderson lifting the trophy on the 18th green at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club in the golden rays of the late afternoon sun on Sunday, you couldn’t have asked for a better week of championship golf at the CP Women’s Open.
Henderson, the star of the show from Smiths Falls, did her best to provide the theatrics, making the cut on Friday on the number, crafting a sublime bogey-free, course-record 63 on Saturday to get into contention and make Sunday interesting.
She had a final round 71 and had her best finish in this tournament with a tie for 12th, but after a bogey on the first hole and bogey on the par-5 sixth, she was never really a factor despite how hard the thousands that line the fairways wished for it to happen.
Still, a great week.
Storylines? There was 70-year-old Al Pollock taking one for the team, getting hit by Henderson’s drive on his left forearm on the sixth hole on Friday and keeping the ball from the cedars and Henderson from making a sure bogey as she rode the cut line.
It was American veteran Cristie Kerr, who played 54 holes with Henderson, draping an arm over her shoulders Friday on the 15th hole when she could see the toll the pressure the home game was taking out of the 19-year-old.
“She had so much pressure on her this week, you know, more than a major, I told her,” Kerr said. “I was joking around, but it was true. Look at all the people out here for her, they all want her to do well and she wants to do well for them. You could see she was tight. I didn’t want her to miss the cut.
“I just thought it would be really good for the tournament if she played better. So I just kind of put my arm around her and I said, ‘it’s time to dig, kid,’ and she said, ‘I’m digging.’ I said, ‘dig harder.’”
Henderson birdied the ninth hole (her last of the second round) to make the cut on the number.
Her 63 on Saturday was Henderson at her best, aggressive, booming drives, playing aggressively, bending the course to her will.
Henderson faced a different kind of pressure on Sunday. She didn’t want to let anybody down by missing the cut on Friday. Now it was about winning.
“I wasn’t nervous, but I had some tension,” Henderson said. “I wanted it so badly that it kind of affected me a little with some of the shots that I hit. Some of the putts, they were so close to going in, it kind of got me down a little bit that they just rubbed the edge or stayed on the lip a couple of times.”
It started with bogey on the first hole. A flag tucked on the left demanded a shot to the middle of the green and a look from there. She’s won four times, including a major, but she’s still got stuff to learn.
“At the last second I wanted to chase the pin,” she said, “and you couldn’t chase that pin it was so close to the left edge.”
Bingo. If that was a lesson learned, it’s an even better week for her.
Not to mention just dealing with the weight of expectations and being pulled in a bunch of different directions as the week unfolded.
Brooke Henderson’s dad and coach, Dave, saw it all.
“To get a 12th, is absolutely spectacular,” he said, “and it’s over the top under that kind of pressure,” he said.
A Return Engagement?
It might all add up to an historic week. The numbers will have to be tallied, but it could be an attendance record for the Canadian Women’s Open, somewhere north of 77,000.
It would have been a good week to hit the drive through for a coffee in Smiths Falls. No wait, given it seemed like everybody was at the Hunt.
“It was trending to be a record and certainly today is going to be no exception,” Golf Canada tournament director Bill Paul said as he stood by the 18th green for the closing ceremony. “I think the way Brooke finished on Saturday set everybody up for Sunday.
“We knew coming to Ottawa in 2017, 150th birthday, nation’s capital, we knew it was going to be special. We know Ottawa has got a pretty passionate market for supporting sports and especially golf, a great golf market. We had a good formula. A young lady that lived about 45 miles west of here that certainly made a big difference in it. We’ve had record crowds over the last four or five years of this tournament. It’s been a very, very special week.”
So, when do we get to do it again?
Golf Canada and CP have a natural drawing card in Henderson playing close to her hometown. Even having the tournament in Montreal, a pretty easy commute for her thousands of fans, is not a bad Plan B (next year’s tournament is in Regina).
“We’re excited to come back here with or without Brooke,” said Paul. “You’ve had four great tournaments here (also at the Hunt in 1994 and 2008 and at Royal Ottawa in 2000). It’s a great market for us. We’d be a fool not to come back, but what is the right time to come back? This one just finished. Ottawa is always going to be in our minds to bring this event back here.”
Henderson was the drawing card and handled it magnificently.
“These crowds were so incredible,” she said. “I just could never have imagined this many people coming out to watch me golf. It’s amazing. Definitely a week I will remember forever.”
She’s not the only one.
Follow me on Twitter: @CJ_Stevenson