Teen golf star Brooke Henderson has sights set on Olympics

Brooke Henderson of Canada plays on the 15th hole during the second round of the Evian Championship women's golf tournament in Evian, eastern France, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

Though only 18, Brooke Henderson was one of Canada’s breakthrough stars last year, winning on the LPGA Tour and establishing herself as one of the best golfers on the planet.

But she’s not satisfied with what’s she’s accomplished. Henderson, from Smith’s Falls, Ont., has her sights set on the Olympics in Brazil.

“It is huge,” the teen says. “It is up there with the other five majors on the LPGA. It is a sixth major. There are 34 events I’m planning on playing, but I’m hoping to peak for that one.”

Henderson, who was too young to have membership on the LPGA Tour last year, quickly convinced the golf world she belonged, winning on the developmental Symetra Tour and then recording a victory on the LPGA at the end of the summer. Along the way she became one of the stars of the women’s game, appearing regularly in televised coverage of the LPGA.

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READ MORE: Golf star David Hearn looks to represent Canada at Rio Olympics

The win means Henderson can craft her own schedule this year. This week, in her third start on the LPGA Tour in 2016, she’s playing in Australia.

“It is super exciting,” Henderson says of planning her year. “We’re looking at tournaments months in advance as opposed to booking flights and hotels the day before. It is a huge change is a stress reliever.”

Usually 18-year olds are stressed about ending high school and what their life will entail next. Henderson, who inked a deal with BMW last year, is more concerned about playing well in the LPGA’s majors and peaking for the Olympics.

Over the course of last year, with circumstances dictating that Henderson rarely saw golf courses before a tournament, she received a big assist from LPGA Tour veteran Alena Sharp. Sharp, a fellow Canadian, is almost twice the age of Henderson, but the pair quickly became friends.

“I played with her at the CPGA two years ago and we’ve kept in touch, and I’ve given her tips on the courses and other things on the tour,” says Sharp, who had her best year on the LPGA in 2015. “I like that we get along and it is neat that she looks up to me, and I’ve benefited from being around her. It is a positive vibe we have going.”

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Sharp would walk Henderson through the course while playing practice rounds together, giving her cues on what to expect. The teenager was grateful for the help.

READ MORE: Canadian golf stars Hadwin, Hearn and DeLaet represent Shaw in 2016

“She didn’t have to go out of her way to help me,” Henderson says. “She just did it because she’s a nice person and she wanted to, so it meant a lot. And I think the relationship worked very well because she had a great season and so did I.”

That relationship means the pair will likely head to Brazil together with golf returning to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century. Henderson isn’t sure how it will play out yet, but she’s thrilled to have the chance to play alongside Sharp. The Canadian golf team won’t be picked until the summer, but Henderson and Sharp are the top-ranked Canadians in the women’s game.

“I don’t know yet, but we’ll likely room together,” says Henderson. “We work well off each other and work off our games well. It might not be a partner thing, but we’re competing for Canada, and it is best if we can help one another.”

Golf in the Olympics will be stroke play, downplaying the team element, but the two women are clearly looking forward to representing Canada in Rio.

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Sharp, who has witnessed Henderson’s prowess, admires the teen’s abilities.

“She’s fearless and has an aggressive style of play,” Sharp says. “I was like that when I was 17 and then you get older and overthink things. Her game all around is great. She hits great tee shots, irons, chips—she has the recipe for success.”

For her part, Henderson says her already enviable game, with its aggressive flair, can get better still.

“I can work on my short game and I’ve been saying that since I was 14,” says Henderson. “I’ve seen big improvement over the last year and I think if I improve even a little bit I believe I’ll be closer to number one. The long game has definitely been my strength and where I pick up shots. On weeks when it is good, I’m right there, so it hasn’t hurt me, but I can be better.”

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