Golf·Analysis

Brooke Henderson on brink of rewriting history at home

What could be one of Canada’s best sports stories of the year will be decided on Sunday by a Canadian golfer barely out of her teens as 20-year-old Brooke Henderson tries to become only the second Canadian woman to win the national championship.

20-year-old vying to become only 2nd Canadian to win CP Women's Open

Canada's Brooke Henderson, 20, takes a one-stroke lead into the final round of the CP Women's Open on Sunday in hopes of becoming the first Canadian to win on home soil since 1973. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

REGINA – What could be one of Canada's best sports stories of the year will be decided on Sunday by a Canadian golfer barely out of her teens.

Brooke Henderson, 20, from Smiths Falls, Ont., holds a one-shot lead over a pair of 19-year-olds, American Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka of Japan, the latter of whom she'll be playing with in the final group on Sunday at Wascana Country Club.

"It's pretty sweet," said Henderson. "But I'm a long way from [rewriting history]. There are like a million players within five shots."

Jocelyne Bourassa is the lone Canadian woman to win the national crown, emerging victorious in 1973 in her home province when the tournament was dubbed La Canadienne. The men's national championship was last won by a Canadian in 1954, when Montrealer Pat Fletcher took the crown at Point Grey in Vancouver.

There have been a handful of close calls but both droughts are among the most vexing on the Canadian sports scene.

Mike Weir famously came the closest, losing the 2004 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey to Vijay Singh in a playoff. The parallels to Singh, then the No. 1 player in the world while breaking Canadian hearts 14 years ago, and to Sung Hyun Park right now, are obvious.

She was an amazing golfer and to win a national championship at home is special ... I hope to be like her tomorrow.— Brooke Henderson on Jocelyne Bourassa , the only Canadian woman to win the national golf championship

Lorie Kane was for many years Canada's best female golfer. She won four times on the LPGA Tour but never did better than fourth in this tournament. The late Dawn Coe-Jones finished as high as third.

Bourassa, long a champion of women's golf in Canada as director of this event, is stricken with Alzheimer's disease and exited the game before Henderson became a national figure in her own right.

Henderson paid tribute to Bourassa on Saturday.

Yin the villain?

"I don't know [a lot] about her but I do know that she was an amazing golfer and to win a national championship at home is special … I hope to be like her tomorrow."

Yin, a Los Angeles native and a portrait of California quirkiness and cool, won in Dubai in December after earning a captain's pick on the U.S. squad that won the Solheim Cup a few months earlier. Much like Henderson a few years ago, Yin is considered one of the game's best young players.

After shooting a third round 70, Brooke Henderson is in the lead at the Canadian Open at -14. 2:22

But she comes across as someone who is too young to understand the weight of history.

"The crowds have been great here, so I don't feel that," said Yin, when asked if she feels like she's been cast in the role of villain. "I mean I have people out here cheering me on too, but I realize they are also [rooting] for Brooke.

"It's just great to see so many people support women's golf."

'Canada's Tiger Woods'

Just behind Yin and Hataoka is defending champion Park, who is two shots back.

Park, who earlier this week called Henderson "Canada's Tiger Woods," fired a final-round 64 last year at Ottawa Hunt to pickup a two-shot victory. One day earlier, Henderson had set the course record at with a 63 but slumped to 12th place on Sunday.

Assuming the forecasted rain holds off, whoever wins on Sunday will likely have to shoot as well as Park and Henderson did last year in Ottawa because of the crowded leaderboard. If Wascana becomes a difficult morass, Henderson seems unconcerned.

"I won in New Zealand in the rain," she said, an interesting comment because of another player who is chasing her.

Lydia Ko, a 21-year-old New Zealander who has won this tournament three times, all while still in her teens, is showing signs of breaking out of a two-year slumber that saw her relinquish the No. 1 ranking.

Ko has had nothing but high praise for Henderson and for Canadian golf fans all week.

Passionate fans

"Canadians have kinda taken me in as their own a little bit," she said. "Every win is special but [my] wins here have been a bit more special I think.

"I was just saying to Jodi [Ewart-Shadoff, Ko's third-round playing partner] that the crowds here love their golf and they love seeing the LPGA here. With Brooke being at the top of the leaderboard that really helps to draw a lot of people in."

It's been just a little more than a month since Georgia Hall of England won the Women's British Open. The 22-year-old from Bournemouth is also in Regina this week. Given that Henderson is attempting to do precisely what she did last month, Hall's observations on Saturday were notable.

"This is Brooke's sixth major," said Hall, "You can tell how much it means to her and to the [Canadian] fans this week. It's been really special to be here and see that connection they have with her."

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