AURORA, Ont. - Brooke Henderson ended a drought on the Prairies last summer and the seeds of the first win by a Canadian in our national golf championship in 45 years were planted in Ottawa.
Henderson became the first woman since Jocelyne Bourassa to win the CP Canadian Women's Open (Bourassa won what was then La Canadienne in 1973) with a score of 21-under-par 271 at the Wascana Country Club.
Henderson, who has since brought her victory total to nine, the most of any Canadian on the PGA or LPGA tours, is Canada's biggest golf star and one of its biggest on the sports stage. When she plays in her national championship, she gets pulled in a lot of different directions. There are demands on her time from sponsors, media and the fans.
Managing all that is critical to give her the space to perform at peak efficiency.
Henderson was at the Magna Golf Club Tuesday to promote the CP Women's Open which will be played there Aug. 19-25 and she said her experience in the 2017 championship at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club prepared her for last summer's winning experience.
There were approximately 80,000 people at the tournament in Ottawa, most of them to see Henderson. If you know anything about Henderson, she is the type of person who cannot just walk by someone she knows has good intentions by wishing her well.
When I asked her about her biggest lesson or takeaway from her victory in Saskatchewan last year, she said it was learning how to manage herself when the pressure is greatest and she's in contention in the tournament she wanted to win most.
"Understanding how I can handle the pressure when I'm in contention down the stretch, just kind of understanding what my tendencies are and what I need to do to be more comfortable in that situation," she said. "I learned a lot. I think a lot of it came from playing in Ottawa the year before.
"I knew a lot of people in the crowd there (in Ottawa) and those were crazy crowds that I had never really experienced before that week. That really prepared me extremely well for last year in Regina, I believe. Since then, just when I'm in contention, I'm a little more confident. I know I can get the job done. I think every time you are in those positions, you learn a little bit more, but I definitely learned a lot that week.
Henderson has also found the right balance between the demands on her time and the need to be ready to play her best golf.
"Just being able to say no and understanding that I need that practice and rest time," she said.
American Angel Yin, who was runner-up at the CP Women's Open last year, saw and heard how much pressure Henderson was experiencing trying to win at home.
"It's great for golf in Canada, women's golf, and it's great for her, too," Yin told reporters afterwards. "I mean, people shouting her name left to right since the first hole, like since nine in the morning. I bet you she feels pressure.
"But she's used to it and she handles it pretty well, and she finished the job."
One of the things I've noticed about Henderson's game is her improved wedge play. She looks like she's more capable of mixing in a little more finesse from 100 yards, varying speeds and spin.
She said he's been working at it for the past two years with her father and coach, Dave, and her sister and caddie, Brittany.
"I feel like I have much better timing and rhythm with it and I'm much more confident. When I step up to a shot under 100 yards, you know, I'm not freaking out anymore," she said. "I'm like, 'I can make birdie' or if I made a mistake off the tee I can make par now. I think that's really important and it's really improved my game a lot."
Henderson's stardom has certainly placed her among Canada's top athletes. She's also begun to have a few high profile fans.
She got texts and messages of congratulations after her record ninth win a couple of weeks ago, including the Prime Minister and the man some might consider our unofficial Prime Minister.
"It's so crazy. Sometimes I wonder why they are reaching out to me. They are such amazing athletes and such amazing people. It's just funny to think that they would want to text me and congratulate me. Right after I won in Hawaii I was playing in L.A. and Wayne Gretzky came over and shook my hand said congratulations and you're fun to watch. I was like what Are you serious? It's just really fun to be in this position where I have so many people and friendships from around the world."
Henderson attended the media day at Magna during a rare week off during the LPGA season. She's skipping the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Wisconsin this week (she's finish T28 and T23 in that event the past two years).
Near as I can figure, Henderson has played 104 of 116 potential starts since she became a full-time member of the LPGA Tour for 2016 season. She missed two tournaments earlier this season because of illness.