Smiths Falls' Brooke Henderson

April 1 2016


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - If you doubted the popularity of Smiths Falls' Brooke Henderson, you only have to walk around the Mission Hills Country Club at the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the golf season.



Henderson had the biggest gallery on the course Thursday during the first round when she shot an up-and-down 73.

Bigger than the gallery following Lydio Ko or Lexi Thompson or any other LPGA star you want to name.

It helped Henderson was playing with American Paula Creamer. "The Pink Panther," has a pretty good following of her own.

But they were there to see the 18-year-old Henderson and many of them were Canadians who winter here in the Coachella Valley nestled in the spectacular Santa Rosa Mountains.

"Every round it seems like there's more fans and not only just from Canada although there is a huge Canadian crowd out here this week, just Brooke Henderson fans in general are definitely growing and it's definitely exciting, " Henderson said.

"On 11, walking up to the green before I hit my third shot out of the bunker they yelled, 'Go Canada!' and I felt a little better about myself and I was able to make two birdies right in a row. I definitely think it helps."

Her presence is helping the LPGA Tour.

Kraig Kann, a Golf Channel reporter for 18 years who is now the LPGA's chief communications officer, remarked on how impressed he is with Henderson's poise.

He mentioned it while interviewing her when she was the first player to be brought into the media centre at the start of tournament week.

He looks at what she's accomplished already and her potential and made a pretty big prediction when it comes to Henderson, golf and Canada.

"This is what's scary: I think Brooke has the opportunity to do what Mike Weir wasn't able to accomplish. Mike Weir was a major champion," he said. "Mike Weir as classy as they come. Probably never should have changed his swing. Probably should have stuck with what got him out on Tour and had the success, but like everybody tries to get better and things change.

"I think Brooke has the ability to win bigger, earlier, and win more majors and be the 'It' athlete, not just the 'It' golfer. For Canada, she could be the 'It' athlete."

"I think she's got every bit of what it takes and it's fun to watch."

The intense interest in Henderson on the part of Canadians is easily seen here.

"I believe that a Canadian phenom is a different animal than an American phenom to a large degree because of sheer numbers," said Kann. "There aren't that many Brooke Hendersons and she's got the entire country behind her. That's why I'm so impressed with the way she carries herself up there. She doesn't look scared. She looks very comfortable and relaxed.

"Right now I don't see one thing that scares me unless she gets burned out by the expectations that might come her way if she were to win two or three majors in short order or a gold medal at the Olympics, that kind of thing. It all could happen."

ARCHIVE

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