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This article was published 17/7/2018 (752 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brooke Henderson remembers being a wide-eyed kid at a golf clinic years ago in Ottawa, watching LPGA Tour star Morgan Pressel smash golf balls while offering tips on how to become a better player.
Now, the Canadian golf sensation is the one doing the inspiring.
Henderson, 20, with her sister and caddie, Brittany, 27, near her side, spent an hour Tuesday with more than 100 juniors at the St. Charles Country Club.
Fatigued from travel hiccups and still recovering from a disappointing third-place finish just 48 hours before at the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio, Brooke was all smiles on the practice range as she talked about everything from her days as a hockey goalie, to her practice routine, to her rise to stardom, to her five holes-in-one, to the special relationship she's forged with her big sister.
And the phenom from Smiths Falls, Ont., who has already won six times on the tour and is one of the true rising stars in the game, was very open about embracing the role of ambassador for Canadian golf and being a hero to the younger set, particularly females, and sharing a few moments with them.
It wasn't that long ago when Brooke's idol shared some time with her.
"When I was growing up, Morgan Pressel was a huge role model for me. I did something similar to this (clinic). I was in the bleachers and she as up here and, afterwards, I went up and asked for her autograph and asked for a photo. She just spent that little bit extra time with me, wrote a message on my shirt," Brooke said.
"It was an amazing experience and something I'll never forget and I'm just trying to pay that forward now, now that I'm kind of in her position from a long time ago."
Now contemporaries on the tour, Brooke admitted she told Pressel about their short but memorable meeting.
"I guess two years ago I showed her the picture of that day and she loves it. She actually showed it again (Sunday) to some people. She’s amazing and we’ve been able to become friends and I’ve been able to play in her charity event, Morgan and Friends (charity golf tournament) and help raise millions of dollars (for cancer research)," said Brooke.
"It’s just amazing to have people that I looked up to now be friends on tour that I see every single day."
Dayna Dubnicoff, 17, got a chance to spend a few moments with her favourite player once the clinic was over.
"It was incredible. She's so nice in person and just an amazing golfer," said Dubnicoff. "Watching her hit shots today was something else. She's just so consistent. It was an honour to have her here."
Dubnicoff's got game, too. She'll play this fall for the University of Manitoba Bisons women's team, under head coach Bri-Ann Tokariwski.
The Elmhurst golfer said she's moved by the closeness of Brooke and Brittany's relationship and how well they work together as a team.
"To have a bond like that with your sibling is pretty amazing," Dubnicoff said.
The junior clinic and a 12-hole pro-am, which featured St. Charles members -- playing a best-ball format -- going head-to-head with Brooke, helped raise both exposure and funds for the Future Pros Program, which introduces the game to junior-aged kids who would otherwise not be able to participate because of financial reasons.
St. Charles head pro Cory Kartusch helped arranged the Hendersons' visit through his long-standing relationship with Ping Golf.
"It's the first time I've ever met Brooke and Brittany and they really are incredible people," said Kartusch. "To provide this opportunity for about 120 junior golfers is phenomenal. I think she has the potential to shepherd a new generation of female and male players in our country. You can see by the enthusiasm the kids and their parents showed here today. It's amazing to have a Canadian doing so well, and amazing things for golf are going to happen."
There were some tense moments when not one but two flights from Toronto were cancelled Monday night, forcing the Hendersons to arrive in the Manitoba capital Tuesday morning. It was Brooke's first time in Winnipeg, while Brittany noted she played in the Canadian junior women's championship at St. Charles (in 2008).
Hustled to the practice range, Brooke ripped two less-than-perfect wedge shots to start but was deadly accurate -- and long -- the rest of the clinic, launching three consecutive drives with ball flights of 250 yards.
Just 5-foot-5, her diminutive stature has not been a hindrance. She's eighth in driving distance (270.165 yards) on the LPGA Tour.
Henderson, the world's 15th-ranked player, has 31 career top-10 finishes on tour and career earnings of nearly $4.2 million.
"It's astounding how good she is. She's on very little sleep, she's just played in a golf tournament where she came just short of winning so she's tired mentally. Then, she jumps off a plane and picks up her wedge and hits a few tiny fat ones and then all of sudden starts whistling them straight and working the ball in both directions, it's amazing to see," said Kartusch.
During the pro-am, St. Charles member Dawna Wallace hit, perhaps, the drive of a lifetime with several hundred people looking on, including the Hendersons.
Looking calm and collected, she laced one straight down the middle, much to her relief. And she credited Brooke's words of wisdom for getting her through it.
"That's a lot of pressure," Wallace said, laughing. "I just blocked everything out. We got to watch (Brooke) in the clinic and she talked about staying calm and in the moment. Her whole mannerisms are very mature and stable.
"I got the fist pump from her. She's great."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 8:49 PM CDT: Fixes typo in photo caption.
10:05 PM: Fixes typo in story.
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