The world’s best female golfers are in Aurora this week with the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open set to tee off today at Magna Golf Club in Aurora.
Canadian Brooke Henderson, the 21-year-old dynamo from Smiths Falls, Ont., is the defending champion and undisputed star of the show.
Henderson met the media on Tuesday and didn’t give away too much – her press conferences tend to be boilerplate – but she acknowledged the gravity of trying to repeat.
“I’m going to give it all I have,” said Henderson. “It’s going to be extremely hard to repeat, that’s just facts. … Hopefully I can post a solid round on Thursday and give the fans something to cheer about.”
Henderson won the tournament last year in Regina, Sask., become the first Canadian to win the national championship in 45 years.
It was her eighth career LPGA title, drawing her even at the time with Canadians George Knudson, Sandra Post and Mike Weir as the most successful golfers based on top-flight tournament victories.
She broke that mark earlier this season with her ninth LPGA victory.
Henderson was under consideration for the Lou Marsh Trophy last year, an honour that was eventually bestowed upon moguls star Mikael Kingsbury.
An underlying theme to this year’s tournament is the unofficial competition between her and tennis ace Bianca Andreescu, who recently won the Rogers Cup not far away at the tennis venue on the campus of York University.
Henderson's emergence as one of this country’s most recognizable and accomplished sports stars is not to the level of its best hockey players, but it’s close.
In the language of her generation, Henderson said she takes gratification from all the recognition.
“It’s just awesome to be part of that (discussion),” she said in an interview earlier this year. “It’s really cool to be thought of that way.”
Beyond Henderson, the Canadian Open traditionally attracts one of the strongest fields of the season and is considered the most important non-major on the schedule.
Eighteen of the top 20 players in the world are teeing it up at manufacturing magnate Frank Stronach’s golf playground near the Aurora/Newmarket border.
Included in that list are Nos. 1 and 2 Jin Young Ko and Sung Hyun Park of South Korea, and American Lexi Thompson, who is No. 3.
Henderson is currently eighth on that ledger.
But it’s a 12-year-old girl making the biggest non-Henderson noise so far. Michelle Liu is a Vancouver-area golfer who earned her way into the tournament through the qualifying series.
Looking every bit the part of a youngster playing with the world’s best, Liu was al smiles (though braces) earlier this week.
To the naked eye and with a sleeve of Titleists in her pockets, Liu looks perhaps 80 pounds. Her full swing takes a full 540-degree turn around her body through impact.
Two weeks before she starts Grade 8, she had made quite the impact on fans and media alike so far this week.
“I’m pretty famous right now,” she said with a laugh.