COQUITLAM, B.C. - Brooke Henderson is set to make history when she tees off at the CN Canadian Women's Open.
The 14-year-old Smiths Falls, Ont., native will become the youngest golfer ever to compete in the tournament, which opens Thursday's at the Vancouver Golf Club.
"It's definitely pretty awesome, especially when you look at all the great players on the LPGA Tour now and all the great players that have come before me," she said Wednesday.
According to Golf Canada officials, Lexi Thompson of the U.S. was the previous youngest golfer to compete in this tournament, at age 15, in 2010 in Winnipeg. Now 17, Thompson will is also be competing here this weekend.
Henderson, a member of Golf Canada's development squad, gained entry by winning a CN Canadian Women's Tour event earlier this year in Beloeil, Que. She became the youngest ever golfer — male or female — to win a professional tournament, but had to decline the prize money because she is still an amateur.
She has also captured the Canadian and Ontario junior girls championships this summer.
"I'm just really looking forward to the week, and I just want to stick to the game plan that I've come up with after looking at the course for the last few days," said Henderson, who is entering grade 10. "I'm just really looking forward to the experience, and I just want to take all of the experience with me in the future years."
In addition to a Canadian title, Henderson dreams of playing on a golf scholarship at the University of Florida and one day becoming a regular on the LPGA Tour. She got into golf by watching her older sister Brittany, who is a member of the Central Carolina University women's team.
Henderson says her game's strength is based on the ability to stay in the fairway off the tee and have a chance at the green on the second shot. Her short game has also improved considerably in recent weeks.
Unlike many other teens, Henderson does not have a Twitter handle or a Facebook page. But she is not worried about missing out on other things that teens typically enjoy.
"I just love to play, and I really enjoy playing," she said. "I just want to continue to get better and improve my game in all aspects. Hopefully, in the years to come, I can be a great player — and win."
National women's team coach Tristan Mullally says Henderson has excelled through her mental strength, discipline, planning and willingness to analyse her game and improve.
"She shows a level of maturity way beyond her years, which is a real advantage for her," he said.
The coach has emphasized the need for Henderson not to become awestruck out on the links.
"There's going to be a lot of people that she's seen on TV, a lot of people that she aspires to," said Mullally. "She certainly has her game together to compete from that perspective. But we also see players as someone she can learn from, and she has a lot of respect for them and their game. So it's more of an eyes-open approach."
He wants Henderson to soak up as much as she can from the LPGA veterans while bearing in mind she has to head back to hitting golf balls on the driving range and her usual life once the tournament ends.
Noting that Henderson also plays hockey and other sports and has friends who are not golfers,
He says he's not worried about her succumbing to the pressure from playing at an elite level at such a young age, and that her parents keep her well grounded. Plus, Ontario's winter weather prevents her from getting too consumed with golf.
"She can manage," he said.