Teen top Canadian story at LPGA event

Golf phenom Brooke Henderson during a pre-tournament photo shoot this summer. (QMI AGENCY/Tony...

Golf phenom Brooke Henderson during a pre-tournament photo shoot this summer. (QMI AGENCY/Tony Caldwell)

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:30 PM ET

COQUITLAM, B.C. - Brooke Henderson holed out green-side chipshots on both the 17th and 18th holes during a pre-tournament practice round of the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open.

"For the Sunday win ... " one fan shouted out for the 14-year-old Canuck golfer to hear.

"Do it again on Sunday," said another.

Henderson flashed her pearly whites -- a grin so big, with dimples to boot, that it's hard for Canadian golf fans not to fall in love with the young phenom -- in reaction to the comments.

Yes, mom and dad, your talented little girl is certainly enjoying her first few eye-opening days of LPGA life at Vancouver Golf Club.

"I'm so excited -- I'm looking forward to the week," said Henderson, who has opened eyes herself for earning her way into the annual LPGA Tour stop and becoming -- at 14 years, 11 months and 13 days -- the youngest ever player to tee it up at the national women's open championship.

"For sure, I definitely feel a lot of support here. It's so nice to have that support."

With no apologies to wily veterans Lorie Kane and Alena Sharp, Henderson (ital)is(ital) the Canadian story here this week.

"I don't know about that," said the product of Smiths Falls, Ont., with a smile. "I'm just really thankful and blessed to be out here."

Humble? Yes.

Talented? Oh yeah.

Nervous and feeling the pressure? She says not, as she wrings her hands when asked the question.

But her maturity is apparently what sets her apart from other youngsters here and allows her to handle the sudden spotlight, say those who know Henderson. That and her ability to score are difference-makers, say Golf Canada brass.

"You can see how mature she is -- she's not a (typical) 14-year-old," said Golf Canada's women's head coach Tristan Mullally. "And that's a huge (asset).

"Brooke's a joy to work with," continued Mullally of the national development team member. "She's very disciplined at sticking to her game plan, which shows her maturity. We want her to execute that game plan.

"But we also want her to enjoy the experience. We want her to soak it up when she can but turn it off when she gets on the course."

The trick for Henderson then is finding that balance.

Cue tour star Michelle Wie, who first competed in an LPGA event when she was 12.

"Never mind the challenges, it's such a great experience," said Wie, offering advice about what it's like to golf at such a young age among the world's best women. "I remember my first LPGA event. I was just so star-struck everywhere I went.

"You grow up watching all these players, and you finally get to not only watch them but play with them. I think it's a fabulous experience. I think she's going to have a blast. I can't wait to meet her and wish her good luck."

Henderson has already found inspiration from her idol, Morgan Pressel, this week.

"She introduced herself (at the driving range)," Henderson said. "She said I have a pretty nice swing.

"I've always looked up to her, and she's been such a great role model for me. This week, I'm a player, but I definitely look up to (the LPGA stars).

"Yeah, I'm trying to soak everything in and take the experience with me for future years," Henderson added. "Yeah, I've got a little bit of nerves, but I'm just really excited to be here and can't wait to start playing (Thursday)."

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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