LONDON, ONT. - Brooke Henderson is under no illusion of the expectations she lugs with her around a golf course.
We’ve all seen what Eugenie Bouchard has done for Canadian women’s tennis.
Now, we want the links equivalent — and as soon as possible, pretty please.
“I see the pressure and I hear that I’m the face of Canadian golf,” the 16-year-old from Smiths Falls said. “But I’m just trying to improve every day and get better.
“If I can represent my country, I’m happy.”
She has arrived to much fanfare at the LPGA’s $2.25 million CP Women’s Open, which begins Thursday at the London Hunt and Country Club.
This is an event that hasn’t been won by a Canadian in 41 years, so each summer, the fireworks would start popping every time former Great White North Hope Lorie Kane buried an opening-round birdie.
Now, Lydia Ko is the two-time defending champion — and she’s 17.
So excuse us if there’s a little bit of ‘Why not Brooke now?’ brewing in Labatt country this week.
Kane has helped her deal with the teen phenom tag.
“Lorie’s an amazing role model for me,” Henderson said. “Even this week, she’s come down and chatted with me a couple of times just about my future and how I should be playing this week and what I should be expecting.
“I love just being able to talk to her and just gain from her experience.”
Henderson missed the cut at her past two women’s Opens on home ground, but it’s clear she’s in a different stratosphere now.
“In the meantime, I’ve played in three majors and made the cut each time,” she said, “and playing in the U.S. Open this year and finishing tied for 10th was definitely a huge confidence booster. Since my first time here, I was 14 and pretty nervous all week getting to meet the big pros and playing on the big stage.
“But I’ve become a lot more comfortable and gotten to know the pros a little bit better.”
Nearly every one of those pros — from Ko to vets Cristie Kerr and Kane — are invariably asked their thoughts on the up-and-coming Kid Canada.
“She’s a great player and has accomplished a lot at a young age,” said Paris pro Jennifer Kirby, who will play in a group with Henderson to open the week. “She hits it really far and she really grinds it out.”
Everyone — from organizers to spectators settling in to watch a Michelle Wie-less four days — is crossing their fingers she finds a way to contend.
“Definitely, there is pressure,” said Henderson, the world’s No. 2 ranked amateur. “But I’m excited to be able to play for my family and friends and show them what I can do.”
There hasn’t been much for them to frown about lately.
She’s digging in here after finishing second at the U.S. Amateur, shooting a personal-best 62 at the Porter Cup and ripping apart Komoka’s FireRock Golf Club to the tune of 13-under over two days at the recent PGA of Canada Championship.
There’s just one little bothersome thing about these gifted kids with unlimited ceilings. At some point along the way, they usually end up hitting a wall.
Will it be here in London? Or as part of the Canadian team at the World Amateur at Japan in early September?
Or maybe she’ll figure out how to skip the valley part altogether and keep on climbing.
“It’s been a busy summer,” she said, “but it’s a long winter in Canada, so I’m happy to get as many tournaments in as I can.”