Anne Murray reached out to say congratulations. Wayne Gretzky texted her — again. And she jumped in the ocean for a winning swim in Hawaii.
Brooke Henderson is a few days removed from the eighth LPGA Tour win of her young career, matching the Canadian-high standard set by Sandra Post, Mike Weir and George Knudson. The 21-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., defended her title at the Lotte Championship this past weekend in Hawaii, winning by four strokes.
Henderson is in Los Angeles this week for the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, but she caught up with Sportsnet before teeing off. We talked about her latest win, the reaction to said win, her future big plans and why she thinks Canadian golfers are off to such a hot start in 2019.
Sportsnet: Brooke, congratulations. How did you do it? How did you defend your title?
Henderson: Thank you. Yeah, going into a tournament where you’ve won before definitely gave me a lot of confidence, and knowing that I kind of knew my way around that golf course. I knew what part of the fairway to hit it on, what side to approach the greens on and just little hints around the course that made a big difference. And on Thursday I just tried to go out and get a solid round and hopefully put myself in a position where I could make a charge. Fortunately enough, I was able to do that, but you never really know from year to year. I’m just really happy I was able to pull it off.
Is it safe to say the Lotte Championship is one of your favourite tournaments on Tour?
[Laughs]. Yeah, it’s pretty cool that I’ve been able to defend the Portland Cambia Classic in 2016 after I won it in 2015 and then to be able to come back to Lotte this year and repeat there was pretty cool. Those two are probably right up there, and special wins for me.
Were you able to celebrate at all in Hawaii?
Yeah, Hawaii is so beautiful. All week I was just really amazed by its beauty, trying to really enjoy it. And then on Saturday evening after the win, Britt [her sister and caddie] and I, we jumped into the ocean and really enjoyed ourselves that night. It’s just really special to be able to go there, and to be able to win on top of that is just a bonus.
Did you see any fish or anything in the water during your victory swim?
[Laughs.] No, which I’m really happy about I think.
Oh yeah, fair — it was probably dark out. What’s the biggest difference between win No. 1 for you on the Tour and win No. 8?
I mean, every win has been a little bit different. I’ve won different ways: I’ve won from behind, in the lead by a lot, in the lead by a little bit and tied going into the final day. All are really unique. I feel like the biggest change from my first win to now is just the confidence and knowing that I can compete every single week. When I put myself in positions on the weekend, that I have been able to pull it off in the past, stay focused and hit good shots when I need to, which is a really good feeling. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer and hopefully putting myself in positions on the weekend to make a charge at another win.
Do you feel like win No. 9 could come this season?
My big goal for the last couple years is to win at least twice on Tour [every year], and I’ve been able to do that since 2016, so I’d love to keep that streak alive. That would mean win No. 9 for me, so hopefully. That’s kind of been my goal for the rest of the season.
Did you expect to have eight wins on the LPGA Tour at age 21? Did you foresee this?
No, I don’t think I really expected too much. To play out here every single week is amazing, it’s kind of surreal most of the time. Then to have eight wins on top of that, competing against the best in the world every week, is pretty cool. I think I’m just trying to get better each and every day and see what the future holds.
You’re now tied with Mike Weir and Sandra Post and George Knudson for most wins as a Canadian. Have you had your eye on that record?
Yeah, starting last year I guess I had five wins going into 2018, and I kind of thought if I had a good season last year, I could put myself close to that. And then fortunately enough, early in 2019, I tied it, which is pretty amazing, because those three people really are legends in Canada. To add my name to that list is pretty cool. I’m excited to tee it up again this week in LA, San Fran next week. I still have a lot of tournaments left here in 2019, so hopefully I can put myself in the final groups and just see what happens.
There’s discussion that you’re already the best-ever Canadian golfer, considering what you’ve accomplished already at such a young age. What do you think when you hear that?
[Laughs.] Yeah I don’t know about that, but that’s pretty sweet to hear. We’ll have to see, I guess.
Are there parts of your game you’re particularly happy with and parts you’re looking to improve as this season progresses?
My ball-striking has always been a huge strength of mine. Short game is kind of where I’ve turned a lot of my focus for the last couple years and just trying to make small improvements there. I think all of my wins have come when my putter’s been working really well. If I could putt a little bit more consistently out here every week then I think more good things would happen.
The other title you’ll be looking to defend this year is the Canadian Open. How special would that be, to go back-to-back there?
Yeah, that would be amazing for sure. But it’s at a different course, which I think is a big difference. I’ve never played Magna [GC, in Aurora, Ont.] before, so it’ll be new to go there I guess in June or July for a media day. I’ll get to see the course a little bit and I’ll try to play it, try to take some notes. But I feel like when the tournament moves around to different courses, it is a little bit more difficult to defend a title like that. To be able to hoist that trophy again would be amazing, especially being a little bit closer to where I grew up would be really cool.
Canadians have won on the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour and the Web.com Tour already this season. What’s going on?
I think when one wins it kind of pushes the other ones a little bit, which I think is great, to have that kind of competition within all of us and just be inspired by each other as well.
Have any recent Canadian performances inspired you?
Yeah, I mean watching Corey [Conners] win [the Texas Valero Open], watching some of his highlights was really exciting. I think it makes all of Canada happy when you see a Canadian do well. Same with my family and myself. When I watched him win, it was kind of just that little adrenaline and it gets you thinking that you want to perform well and you want that chance to hoist a trophy too.
You’ve said winning twice this year is a goal. Any others for this season, and looking ahead?
A big thing for me is scoring average and trying to keep it under 70. Last year, 2018, was the first time my scoring average was in the 60s, it was 69 point something. [It was 69.990; fourth-best on Tour]. I’d love to do that again this year. I think if I’m able to do that a lot of other things will fall in place, which hopefully includes that second win of the year.
Did you hear from anyone notable after this latest win?
Yeah, after every win I’m really fortunate, I get a lot of messages from people I know and people I don’t really know and from famous people as well. Wayne Gretzky, he texted me the other day, and Anne Murray reached out on Twitter too. Those definitely mean a lot coming from Canada.
What did Wayne text you?
[Laughs.] He texts me after every win, which is pretty sweet, being the legend that he is. Just that he and Janet congratulate me. It’s pretty cool.
How did he get your phone number?
He’s had it since 2015, so it’s been a while.
Do the two of you ever just chat?
No, I’ve only met him once in person. It’s mainly just texts after I do something good. [Laughs.]