OTTAWA — The CP Women’s Open hasn’t been a major on the LPGA Tour since 2000, but it will have the feel of one this week with teenage phenom and local favourite Brooke Henderson headlining a strong field.
Henderson, ranked No. 10 in the world, will undoubtedly have a huge gallery when play begins Thursday at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, where she is an honorary member. Many friends and family members from her nearby hometown of Smiths Falls, Ont., will be on hand.
“This championship isn’t a major anymore. But for us Canadians, it really is,” Henderson said. “This is a tournament that I would love to hoist that trophy, and especially here in Ottawa. I’m just really excited for the opportunity to play in front of so many incredible fans that have supported me when I’m all around the world.”
From 1979 to 2000, Canada’s national women’s golf championship was one of four majors on the LPGA circuit. In 2001 it was replaced by the British Women’s Open, a pre-existing tournament that had been a major on the European Tour.
The CP Women’s Open still remains one of the top events on the LPGA Tour’s calendar. Joining Henderson in the field are world No. 3 and defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, three-time champ and world No. 5 Lydia Ko, top-ranked So Yeon Ryu, No. 4 Sung Hyun Park, No. 6 Shanshan Feng, No. 7 In Gee Chun and No. 9 Inbee Park.
“I’m really looking forward to four days of competition and hopefully I can get off to a fast start,” Henderson said in her pre-tournament media availability session. “Then I can use the enthusiasm and momentum from all the fans and propel me the rest of the week. I’m super excited and can’t wait to get started.”
There are 13 other Canadians in the field: Hamilton’s Alena Sharp, Calgary’s Jennifer Ha, Hannah Hellyer of Sterling, Ont., Augusta James of Bath, Ont., Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane, Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., Brittany Marchand of Orangeville, Ont., Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., and Quebec City’s Anne-Catherine Tanguay.
Amateurs Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., Ottawa’s Grace St. Germain, Calgary’s Jaclyn Lee and Victoria’s Naomi Ko round out the Canadian contingent.
“I know it will be very difficult for any one of us to win,” said Henderson. “This is one of the strongest fields of the year. There’s 150 golfers that are trying to win that trophy. So for me to do it, I’m going to have to get some good breaks, I’m going to have to play my best and hopefully everything will go my way.”
Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club is hosting the event for the third time. A tornado warning was issued in the area during practice rounds on Tuesday and high winds and rain pelted the traditional-style course, with several trees coming down nearby.
“Despite the rain we had yesterday, the greens are still rolling really well, and it’s not totally soft,” Ko said Wednesday. “The superintendents have put in a lot of time to make it into this pristine condition for us.”
Most players are well-rested after a two-week break in the regular tournament calendar, although 19 players in the field — including former champions Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome — did compete in last week’s Solheim Cup.
“I took at least seven days off and didn’t touch a club,” said Sharp, who returned to Canada after the British Open wrapped on Aug. 6. “Went to cottage country, hung out with some friends and really took some downtime and then I got back into it last week.”
Many players at the event will wear yellow ribbons in memory of Canadian golfing legend Dawn Coe-Jones, who died Nov. 12 at age 56 after a battle with cancer.
Coe-Jones, from Campbell River, B.C., won three LPGA Tour events, played in the Canadian national championship over 20 times and was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.
“I don’t want anybody to ever forget her,” said Kane. “I leaned on Dawn probably more than Dawn realized, and looked to Dawn for a kick in the butt when I needed to.”