TORONTO — The way Brooke Henderson sees things, Canada has a chance to repeat as gold medallists in golf at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
And yes, she’s aware the last time a golfer of any nationality graced the top of the podium was 1904 when the late George Seymour Lyon, of Toronto’s Rosedale Golf Club, won gold at the Summer Games in St. Louis, Missouri.
That was the year most of Toronto’s downtown burned to the ground and Henry Ford opened an automobile manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ont. Only 14 per cent of American homes had a bathtub. Average life expectancy was 47 years.
Still, Canada is the last country to capture Olympic gold in a sport loved the world over.
“We’re the defending champions,” says Henderson, the 18-year-old rising superstar from Smiths Falls, Ont. “We have the chance to go where, over 100 years ago, Canada won. Golf is going to be in the Olympics, and there’s been a lot of controversy whether it should or shouldn’t be. I believe it should be. I’m very excited to be able to represent my country and go to Rio and stand on that podium and hopefully bring home that gold medal.”
Henderson only just turned 18 and isn’t even old enough to legally drink in her home province. Most of her friends are busy cramming for final exams in their first semester at university.
Yet Henderson gives Canada reason to believe an Olympic medal, of some colour, is not out of the realm of possibility in Rio. Given her age, given her relative inexperience, she has a better shot at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. But, on any given day, anything can happen.
“Standing on that podium, that would be remarkable,” Henderson said Thursday at the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Excellence series for prospective Rio athletes. “They showed a couple videos the last couple of days of Olympians and the national anthems and just them standing on the podium and just them competing. Every time I watch those videos, I just get goosebumps. My blood runs crazy.”
Henderson’s blood has run crazy for much of the last 12 months after turning pro last December. She served notice of her intention to climb up the rankings with a third-place finish at the Swinging Skirts LPGA stop in April before placing fifth at both the Women’s PGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. She proceeded to win the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic in August by eight shots, the largest margin of victory on the tour since 2012.
Scary stuff, considering her age.
Thanks to such resounding success, her roster of sponsors includes IMG, Royal Bank, Sunice Golf, Ping Golf and Titleist. Her 2015 earnings are listed at US$761,558, and she is ranked 18h in the world.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity I have to play in the Olympics and to play on the LPGA Tour,” she said. “Both dreams I’ve had since I was young, and now, this year, it’s the first year I can achieve both of those.”
Henderson has no desire to simply attend the Rio Games as a participant. She sees herself as a contender.
“It’s one week,” she said. “It’s four days. I’ve won on the LPGA tour before.”
Not so long ago, Henderson had designs on becoming the next Shannon Szabados or Charline Labonte and competing for Canada in women’s hockey at the Winter Olympics. She played goalie for seven or eight years at the rep level.
She originally planned on playing both hockey and golf at college until her golf game elevated to the point the choice became obvious.
“I like Tim Thomas,” she said. “I know he’s had some controversy over the last couple of years, but leading up to that, I loved the way he played. It was kind of unorthodox, but I loved it, and he had a great team — the Boston Bruins — as well.”
The Canadian Olympic team will not officially be named until next July, but Henderson is a virtual lock.
“The Olympics is a dream that I had as a little girl,” she said. “I didn’t know what sport or what I was going to do or how I was going to get there. But I wanted to be in the Olympics and I wanted to share the same passion as all these other athletes that I watched on TV in the Winter and Summer Games.”
Back in 1904, Lyon walked through the clubhouse on his hands to accept his Olympic gold medal in St. Louis. Inquiring minds wanted to know Thursday if Henderson is prepared to do the same should she win in Rio.
Wise beyond her years, Henderson just laughed.
“I’ll have to work on that.”
Source: nationalpost golf news