Future looks bright for Canadian golfer Brooke Henderson

Brooke Henderson holds the trophy after winning the Canadian junior women's title in Calgary...

Brooke Henderson holds the trophy after winning the Canadian junior women's title in Calgary earlier this month. The 14-year-old from Smith Falls, Ont., will be in this week's Canadian Women's Open courtesy of a pro event victory in Quebec in June. (Jim Wells/QMI Agency)

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:28 PM ET

The networks are done saturating viewers with Olympic spirit and news people turned sportswriters have poured their syrup and moved on to another flavour of the day, leaving future Olympians to toil in anonymity until they’re worthy of their attention once again.

It’s the Canadian way to gush when athletes reach a grand stage, but ignore them until then. Ignorance is bliss until fame sets in and the same holds true with those who wonder why there are few Canadians on the PGA and LPGA Tours.

There are theories, but to formulate an educated opinion, it’s a good idea to actually know what you’re talking about.

This week’s CN Canadian Women’s Open at the Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, B.C., offers a fresh face to Canadian golf, but with 48 of the top 50 on the LPGA Tour money list present, Brooke Henderson of Smith’s Falls, Ont., will likely be overshadowed at the age of 14.

“I’m really excited and I’m really looking forward to being able to play with the best in the world and post some good scores,” said Henderson, who first developed her interest in golf watching sister Brittany, now at Coastal Carolina University on a golf scholarship.

Henderson didn’t receive a condescending exemption, but earned her way in by winning a professional event on the CN Canadian Women’s Tour in Beloeil, Que., where she shot a 67 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round. She produced a 72 on the last day.

“I was definitely thinking of a top placement. After the first day, I was in the lead so I tried to post the low score on the second day to finish it off,” said Henderson, who also won the Royale Cup Canadian junior title earlier this month.

It’s unfair to hang the can’t-miss tag on Henderson, but to ignore her potential means falling into the same trap as the front-runners waiting at the destination instead of enjoying the journey there alongside promising athletes.

There are bumps ahead. Henderson failed to make it past the round of 64 in last month’s U.S. Junior Girls Championship, but she won the Ontario junior title for the second consecutive year.

Calling her a phenom is going over the top, but she’s definitely on a roll. All she’s concerned with is her next step this week, but there are plenty more ahead.

SITTING THIS ONE OUT

Maude Aimee LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., will be in Vancouver, a city she says she loves, for the Canadian Women’s Open, but it will be as a spectator.

LeBlanc is sitting out the rest of her rookie season due to stress fractures in her back that first affected her prior to the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont., in June.

“It started in a random daily practice on the range, The pain left after a week or two, so I wasn’t too worried about it and I just played through it for the next few weeks,” said LeBlanc.

Shortly afterwards, LeBlanc, who leads the tour with a 282-yard average driving distance, began to feel the pain again at an event in Arkansas.

“It was the most pain I’d felt on the golf course. I was taking a lot of pain killers and it wasn’t helping at all,” said LeBlanc, who began seeing tour physiotherapists and took a couple of weeks off.

“After that two weeks, I started hitting balls again and the pain came back right away,” said LeBlanc, who was diagnosed with three stress fractures and warned not to put her career in jeopardy.

“That really scared me,” said LeBlanc. “I can still practice my short game, my putting and I can still work out physically, so I can still get ready for next year.”

CAREER CHANGE

Former PGA Tour player Ian Leggatt says he’s been asked to consider positions at various golf clubs, but never had an interest until last week when he became director of golf at Summit Golf and Country Club in Richmond Hill, Ont., currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

As part of those celebrations, Summit is building a new pro shop and will open a new teaching academy.

“With the changes that Summit’s made, the membership and how highly involved they are — the average member at Summit plays 45 rounds of golf a year, so it’s a very highly engaged membership and that instantly appealed to me,” said Leggatt.

“It was just the opportunity to come in and do some fun stuff and some exciting stuff,” added the winner of the 2002 Tucson Open, who had been working as executive vice president of golf for the Wasserman Media Group in Toronto, where he says he was very happy.

“We were doing some great things in Canada,” said Leggatt, who will finish his duties there this week and will especially miss working with rising Canadian player Nick Taylor, a Wasserman client.

“I wanted to be there for the whole ride with him because he’s going to be a great player one day and he’s developing nicely,” said Leggatt.

EXEMPTION TIME

Toronto’s Scarboro Golf and Country Club is also celebrating its 100th anniversary and will host this week’s Canadian Tour Championship. Receiving exemptions into that event are Jon Mills of Belleville, David Morland IV of Aurora, Toronto’s David Lang and Eugene Wong of North Vancouver.


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