REGINA, Sask. – Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Brooke Henderson is just 20 years old.
She’s accomplished more in her short time as a golfer than many have in a career. She’s won tournaments, earned millions, signed lucrative endorsement deals and become a sporting icon in Canada and abroad.
Heck, she even has her own bobblehead doll, released this week at the CP Canadian Women’s Open at Wascana Country Club.
Yet, she’s just barely out of her teens and still not able to legally drink in the United States where she spends a great deal of her time.
And so sometimes we may expect a lot from her. We expect her to never miss a shot. We expect her to shoot low numbers every time she tees it up. We expect her to win whenever she’s in the hunt. We expect her to smile, sign every autograph, do every interview and attend every event.
Henderson has been continuing on her remarkable run of brilliant play this year, logging a victory at the Lotte Championship and seven other top-10 finishes. She’s closing in on $1 million in earnings.
She was also in contention to win her second major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship before settling for a tie for sixth, and had her best result in the Women’s British Open where she tied for 11th. Last week, in Indianapolis, she finished the week off with a nine-birdie 63 that may have been her best putting round of the year.
“I definitely feel like it's in a good spot,” Henderson said of her game. “Feel like my ball-striking is going very well. My greens-in-reg stats are very good for the past summer. On Sunday seeing a lot of putts roll in was a great feeling for me and gives me a lot of confidence back in my putter that I've been changing in and out for the last year or so.”
In many ways, Canadian fans have come to expect her to do this all the time, to drop birdie after birdie and move up every leaderboard. But life goes on off the course and we forget that she’s still learning about the world like anyone else her age.
We forget that she has good days and bad days and that, like any 20-year-old, she’s going to learn how to live by making mistakes now and then, suffering heartbreak, maybe even having an argument with her sister, Brittany, once in a while. In other words, do the things that most people her age do.
This past summer life cut a wide swath through Henderson’s journey when both of her grandfathers passed away within a few months.
“It's been a really crazy and weird and kind of tough summer for sure,” she admitted. “But I feel like once I get inside the ropes I can kind of let that go and know that my two grandpas that did pass away, they're always cheering me on and looking on from heaven.
And perhaps, she said, they’re doing even more than just cheering.
“Maybe they kick the ball into the fairway or something. I'm not sure,” Henderson laughed.
After the first grandfather passed in June, Henderson withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open after her opening round. There will be plenty of U.S. Opens in the future and her strong family ties made it simple to head home rather than play on.
Of course the Smiths Falls, Ont., product has grown immensely since she first arrived on the golf stage. When she played this tournament for the first time as a 14-year-old, she timidly told a media gathering that she wasn’t on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media (she’s active these days and uses it to reach out to her fans).
I know, it’s hard to imagine a teenager cut off from the world without social media. Then again, at that time she was barely in high school, her mind-boggling golf game sometimes clouding our reality of her maturity.
Since then, she’s blossomed as a person, more confident to share her feelings, more aware of her status as a role model to junior players. She knows she has earned special place through her talents although she may not be able to understand just exactly why.
“I'm not saying it's just because I worked really hard I got here,” she stated. “I had a lot of fortunate breaks and somebody has been looking after me for sure. I'm just really grateful to be in this position, and hopefully I can continue to improve over the next few years.”
That improvement will take place both on and off the course and Henderson will continue to grow as a golfer and a person. And she’ll do it right in front of us.