OTTAWA – Brooke Henderson was probably 500 miles away from the closest open golf course Saturday night, but she still got a standing ovation.
Henderson, the winner of the LOTTE Championship in April and the CP Women’s Open in August, was feted by fans of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators in an evening tilt against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
The native of Smiths Falls, Ontario (about an hour from Ottawa) did a ceremonial puck-drop prior to the game, the CP Women’s Open trophy not far from her sight.
“The crowd was really cool. To see everyone rise and cheer me on was great. I was a little embarrassed,” Henderson told LPGA.com with a laugh. “But it was really awesome.”
The Ottawa Senators also honored Henderson with a video presentation on the big screen prior to the first period, highlighting her accomplishments this season on the LPGA Tour. She spent the game in a suite surrounded by 24 friends and family.
At the CP Women’s Open, Henderson became the first Canadian to win her national championship in 45 years. Her four-shot victory over Angel Yin was her seventh LPGA Tour title.
The 21-year-old is just one win back from tying the all-time record for wins by a Canadian professional (male or female) held jointly by Mike Weir, George Knudson, and Sandra Post – the 1968 LPGA Rookie of the Year.
She said she’s looking forward to 2019 on the LPGA Tour, after a well-deserved break at home over the Christmas holidays.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed my time off, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Florida and start training,” said Henderson. “I’m ready and energized to start working hard again and see what the new year brings.”
Hockey has always been a part of Henderson’s life, so it was no surprise to see her spend the game cheering on her favorite team wearing a custom Senators jersey with HENDERSON emblazed on the back.
Her father, Dave, was a goalie and when Henderson was eight years old, the coach of a local squad came to their house to ask if she wanted to be a goalie as well, since the team needed one. She was a figure skater prior to strapping on the pads, and played hockey all the way until she was 14 and decided to focus on golf full-time.
Smiths Falls is the home of the Smiths Falls Bears Junior B hockey team, who the whole town rallies around.
“It’s a huge part of our town,” she said. “It’s what people do every Friday… they go cheer on the Bears.”
Henderson dedicated her first win of the year in Hawaii to the town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan (a little smaller than Smiths Falls) after 16 members of a junior hockey team were killed in a bus crash.
That week, she wore a yellow and green ribbon in honor of the team – an initiative started by fellow Canadian Alena Sharp. Henderson said all the Canadians on the LPGA Tour are big hockey fans.
Henderson tries to get to at least one Ottawa Senators game per year and said she’ll never forget everything hockey taught her as she was growing up.
As a goalie, she said, she gained a lot of strength in her lower body and playing hockey is “definitely” why she hits it so far these days (Henderson was 8th on the LPGA Tour in Driving Distance in 2018).
“Being a goalie is a lot of pressure, and I learned how to handle it in a certain way and have taken that to the golf course,” she said. “The two sports are very different, but a lot of things are similar.”
It may have been a very different – and much colder – atmosphere Saturday, but the ovation was similar indeed.