AURORA, Ont. — World No. 1 Jin Young Ko wasn’t going to walk up to the 18th green without Brooke Henderson.
The runaway winner of the CP Women’s Open, Ko called for her groupmate to join her and the two friends walked arm-in-arm to a rousing ovation at Magna Golf Club.
Ko and Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen started Sunday’s round as co-leaders with Henderson two shots back in third place. But Ko fired a flawless 8-under 64 to pull away from the field.
Henderson, who became the first Canadian to win the national championship in 45 years last season, was far and away the most popular golfer at the LPGA Tour event. Given the large crowds following the native of Smiths Falls, Ont., Ko felt they should share the tournament’s final spotlight.
"I thought when I was walking to the 18th green that the crowd was for Brooke, not me," said Ko. "We’re here in Canada and she has a lot of fans.
"So, Brooke, this crowd is for you. But she said ‘no, it’s for you,’ so we went together."
Jin added with a laugh: "I like Brooke."
Ko finished 26-under overall, five shots better than Broch Larsen and seven better than Henderson and American Lizette Salas, who also shot a course-record 8-under 64.
Ko’s winning score of 262 is a new CP Women’s Open tournament scoring record. She broke the prior standard — held jointly by Ariya Juanugarn in 2016 and So Yeon Ryu in 2014 (265, -23) — by three shots.
Henderson appreciated Ko’s gesture after a long day of playing together.
"We’re both out there to do our job, but we respect each other a lot," said Henderson, who won the Sandra Post Award as the tournament’s low Canadian. "If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.
"You can’t ask for a better person or a better golfer to win this championship."
It was Ko’s fourth win of 2019. She’s also the first LPGA player to play a bogey-free, four-round tournament since fellow South Korean Inbee Park did it at the 2015 HSBC Women’s World Champions.
"She’s world No. 1 for a reason," said Henderson. "She’s had an unreal season. I don’t even know, is it four wins now? Four wins on one of the toughest tours there is.
"There is so much talent out here. To get one win is hard, to get four is really cool."
The final round of the CP Women’s Open was broken up into trios, with groups teeing off at the first and 10th tees to insure the finale didn’t run up against the climax of the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Although all three players in the final group had two birdies on the front nine, it was a saved par that Ko made on the ninth hole that tilted the balance in her favour.
Her approach shot went wide right, over the spectator-filled cart path and into a thickly wooded area. Despite almost losing the ball in the brush, Ko chipped it to within four feet of the pin, avoiding what could have been a disastrous bogey.
It seemed to energize her, as she made six more birdies on the back nine to clinch the title.
"When she made that up and down, I guess that was kind of it," said Broch Larsen. "And then she made birdie, birdie, and then, I mean, that wasn’t the end because I was still in it but I was a couple behind with few to go."
Henderson’s responsibilities at the CP Women’s Open extended far beyond her performance on the course. As the face of golf in Canada, she had media, sponsor, and fan commitments throughout the week.
"I feel like I handled it really well," said Henderson, who noted that the CP Has Heart charity raised $2.2 million for the Hospital for Sick Children in downtown Toronto and $250,00 for the Southlake Regional Health Centre. "There were a lot of extra things I had to do, but overall it was really fun.
"Just to be able to play well in front of all these people, and hopefully make their weekend a little bit better, that’s all I really want."
Golf Canada reported that approximately 45,000 fans attended the tournament, second most in CP Women’s Open history. It also set a record for walk-up and corporate hospitality sales.
Quebec City’s Anne-Catherine Tanguay closed with a 71 to finish 20 shots off the lead. The other 13 Canadians in the tournament missed the cut but many of them, including Alena Sharp, Brittany Marchand, and Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Lorie Kane, walked the final three holes of the course with Henderson.