REGINA, Sask. -- Brooke Henderson admitted to a few jitters on the first tee at the Wascana Country Club. Of course when the fairway is lined three or four deep all the way to the green, it’s easy to understand.
The 20-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., took a deep breath, settled herself and drilled her opening shot down the middle of the first fairway.
Even though she would three-putt that opening hole for a bogey, the supportive atmosphere set the tone for a solid first round that saw her post a six-under 66 to sit two shots back of the lead.
With the Roughriders on the road this week, it appears most of Regina has thrown its weight behind the six-time LPGA Tour winner.
“It was a really solid day,” said Henderson. “I got off to a little bit of a shaky start with a bogey on the first hole, but I made a ton of birdies today and that’s always a really good sign.”
A ton in golf equates to eight and on this day, they came in bunches for Henderson. She made four in a row from the fourth hole and six in a seven-hole stretch. While her putter, usually the make-or-break club in her bag, was performing well, it was her approach shots that keyed her solid play. She attacked lots of pins and had a number of short birdie putts in that stretch.
“I made a lot of putts today and hit the ball in great places and was able to roll it in,” she stated. “I felt like I kind of gained confidence as the round went on. The crowds out here were amazing so I kind of used them to fuel me and hopefully over the next three days I can do something similar to today.”
Henderson had two three-putts on Thursday, coming on the first and the par-3 11th, and only birdied two of the four par-5 holes. But when she wasn’t hitting it well she was scrambling to perfection.
On the eighth hole, her drive left her looking at an overhanging branch between her and the pin. The safe shot was to hit the right side of the green, take her two-putt and move on. Dealing with the tree also meant dealing with the water in front of the green. But that’s not the Henderson way. Instead, she took on the branch and was rewarded when the approach settled three feet from the pin.
“I was talking to Brit (sister and caddie Brittany) and I said ‘Should I hit a low nine?’ And she said I could hit it over that branch. So we talked about it and figured I could get it up high enough and still hit the green and fortunately I gave myself about a five-footer for birdie and made it.”
On the 17th, a 528-yard par 5, she whipped her drive into the trees, pitched out to the fairway, hit her third into a greenside bunker and lofted it from the sand to tap-in range. It was just that kind of day.
“Hopefully tomorrow I can do something similar and then just kind of see what the weekend does,” she stated.
Henderson sits two shots back of the co-leaders Ariya Jutanugarn, Mariajo Uribe and Nasa Hataoka, who jointly set a new course record at the Regina golf course. Overall 108 players broke par on a day when a defenceless Wascana course was played under lift, clean and place rules due to the rough conditions caused by a harsh winter. Coupled with virtually no wind, the LPGA’s best picked it apart.
Friday could change that, however, as winds gusting up to 50 kilometers per hour are expected.
“It’s definitely going to play a lot differently than it did today,” commented Henderson. “But hopefully I can stay on the high side, hit solid shots and be rewarded for the good ones and the bad ones don’t get too far into the rough.”