Brooke Henderson managed to display her dimples when she acknowledged the supportive crowd that surrounded the 18th green at the Vancouver Golf Club. But there were not many times the 14-year-old golfer from Smith Falls, Ont. cracked a smile in her debut performance on the LPGA Tour on Thursday.
The whiz kid checked in with a five-over 77 in the first round of the CN Canadian Women's Open to match her idol, Morgan Pressel, who became the youngest to win an LPGA Tour event at age 18 in 2007. But they sit 11 strokes behind the leader and world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei..
When she teed off on Thursday morning Henderson became the youngest to compete in this event. But her first taste playing alongside the best in the world did not meet her expectations because her putter let her down.
She drove the ball well enough, hit an impressive 15 of 18 greens in regulation, but she needed 38 putts to get around the Vancouver Golf Club.
"It was a little rough," she said. "I struggled on the greens today … My pace was off.
The dismal display on the greens, in a round that it rained off and on, sure dampened her spirit. Henderson didn't seem to be having fun.
She hit it close on the front nine, but only got one birdie putt to drop. She suffered a couple of three-putt greens on the back nine.
"I'm not usually that intense," said Henderson, when asked her lack of smiles during her round.
Still, Henderson has enjoyed quite a summer and this experience will only help her improve. Before she arrived in British Columbia this week, she already had won the Canadian and Ontario junior championships as well as played in the Ladies British Amateur and U.S. junior.
In her first round at the Canadian Women's Open, she played alongside Hamilton's Alena Sharp and 29-year-old American Melissa Martin. Caddying for Sharp was A.J. Eathorne, a former LPGA Tour player who caddied for last year's Canadian Women's Open champ, Brittany Lincicome.
Eathorne often chatted to Henderson as they walked down the fairway and came away with a good first impression of the youngster.
"She has tremendous poise," said Eathorne, of Penticton, B.C. "I wish I had her poise when I was 14.
"She was intense out there. I was just trying to talk to her about anything but golf. That's what us caddies do."
Henderson had plenty of support outside the ropes. Among the interested gallery that followed her were her parents, Darlene and Dave, an aunt and an uncle as well as two members from the Smith Falls Golf Club, Janice and Ron Stanzl. Henderson, however, also appreciated the support inside the ropes from Eathorne.
"She is a great player and still is," Henderson said. "She was on the bag today, but she's amazing. I want to be able to learn from her and take tips from her for sure."
Forty-eight of the top-50 LPGA Tour money winners were in the field for this week's event.
Of the fifteen Canadians, Lorie Kane of Charlottetown enjoyed the best opening round with a level-par 72 thanks to a closing birdie.