As Brooke Henderson approached he 18th green at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club on Sunday, veteran Cristie Kerr hung back so Henderson could have centre stage in front of partisan fans as she concluded the CP Women’s Open, so close to her home town of Smiths Falls, Ont.
“She’s Canada’s champion, so it was fitting,” said Kerr, who tied for third at 10 under, three shots back of champion Sung Hyun Park of South Korea, who fired a bogey-free, seven under 64 to win by two shots over Mirim Lee, also of South Korea.
It was the second national championship for Park, who won the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this season.
The move by Kerr was an acknowledgement of the partisan fans who had lined the fairways all week to watch Henderson and stayed with her even as it became obvious she wasn’t going to win after her course record 63 the day before.
“Cristie’s a class act. Everything she does, you know, she inspires me. She’s a great player, a great person. She’s a role model. I look up to her. To play with her three days this week really helped me. Just things like that, letting me walk up on to 18 and soak in the crowd and all those cheers. That was just really a class act,” said Henderson.
Needing a fast start to rise up the leaderboard from the tie for sixth she was in to start the day, Henderson bogeyed the first and sixth holes and didn’t get her first birdie until the par four 12th.
She got back to even par with a birdie on 14, but bogeyed the next hole, with her final birdie of the day coming on the par-three 17th before Kerr made her classy gesture.
Her even par 71 left Henderson at seven under, good for a tie for 12th.
“I’m really happy I got those few birdies on the back nine to kind of get myself back to even par and that feels a lot better. I think this was my best finish ever at a Canadian Open as well when I was looking at the leaderboard coming up, so that’s really exciting,” said Henderson.
“These crowds were so incredible. I just could never have imagined this many people coming out to watch me play golf. It’s amazing, definitely a week I’ll remember forever,” she added.
“I would have loved to finish a little better for them, to give them something more to cheer about, but I think the birdies on the back kind of put them in good spirits again. They were just behind me 100 per cent the whole way,” she said.
While she doesn’t take away the trophy, she does go forward with the experience of being the focus of a partisan crowd. Experience is still a valuable commodity, even for a four-time tour winner, including a major championship, who turns 20 next month.
“Patience and just staying in the moment, trying to embrace these fans because they were cheering me on so hard and wanted me to do so well,” said Henderson.
“I felt like I did a lot better job this year than I’ve ever done at home playing on the home course, just because I just tried to embrace it, tried to ride their wave of enthusiasm, their momentum. I just tried to match all of the excitement that they had and I felt like I did a lot better job,” she said.
“That’s really exciting to know that I can do that. I feel like it’s just a stepping stone in the right direction and hopefully, when we come back here to Ottawa Hunt at some point – hopefully, it will and hopefully, I’ll be able to hoist that trophy,” she said.
Henderson now leaves for Portland, where she has hoisted the trophy twice at the Cambia Portland Classic.
“I’m eager to get there. I feel like I left some things out on the table right now, so I’m excited to get started on Thursday and hopefully defend for the third time in Portland,” she said.
Click here for the final leaderboard.