Goodbye, hello and welcome home: Generations of Canadian golfers converge in Ottawa

·5 min read
Canada's Lorie Kane embraces fellow Canadian Alena Sharp on the green of the 18th hole during the CP Women's Open in Ottawa on Friday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada's Lorie Kane embraces fellow Canadian Alena Sharp on the green of the 18th hole during the CP Women's Open in Ottawa on Friday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

It takes a lot to wear a Maple Leafs jersey in Ottawa and get cheered for it.

But that's exactly what happened when Lorie Kane pulled on the blue-and-white sweater on the 17th hole, dubbed "the rink" at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club on Friday at the CP Women's Open.

Kane, 57, was in the midst of hitting the final shots of her iconic career at the tournament, which started in 1991 and was about to come to its official close.

Then, as the Charlottetown native headed down the 18th fairway, she snuck a glimpse to her right.

"I was catching Brooke [Henderson] going down 16, so I was focusing on the leaderboard and trying to get a glimpse of how she did it. So it was special," Kane said.

In front of Kane were two grandstand's worth of people, plus many more lining the outside of the green, waiting to cheer on the Canadian golf legend.

WATCH | Kane says goodbye to CP Women's Open:

Meanwhile, back on the 10th, 12-year-old Lucy Lin was just preparing to begin her second round, with an outside shot at making the cut.

A total of 19 Canadians converged in the country's capital for the 2022 national open, where the past met both the present and the future.

"I think there's a lot of really positive things happening in young women's golf here in this country," Kane, who missed the cut, said after her round on Friday.

"And again, it's because we're putting money, pardon the expression, where our mouth is and getting what support needs to be gotten or given to young golfers."

Henderson at 5-under

Henderson is the star people came to see in Ottawa — unfortunately, on Thursday, it was only those in attendance who could see her, as none of her round made it to live TV in Canada.

By Friday, the issue was rectified, as TSN aired Henderson's entire round.

"I feel like that's just kinda progress in the women's game," Henderson said. "Here in Canada I feel like I'm so loved and supported and I feel like the fans really have my back, so that's pretty cool."

For the second straight day, Henderson exited the course with a bogey on her last and feeling like she could've done better. She made a buzzer-beater birdie on the second hole, rolling in a putt just as the horn sounded to suspend play due to rain. The delay pushed the end of the second round to Saturday morning, when play will resume at 7:15 a.m. ET.

But with the Smiths Falls, Ont., native sitting at 5-under, and leader Narin An of South Korea at 13-under, the hill to contention is steep.

"Not the position I wanted to be in, but I'm playing the weekend and I have amazing crowds and amazing fans out here cheering me on, so I feel like if I can make a couple birdies early I can ride some momentum," Henderson said.

WATCH | Henderson lingers in Ottawa:

If An, the Tour rookie, holds on, she'd become the third Korean winner in the last four editions of the tournament, after Jin-young Ko in 2019 and Sung-hyun Park in 2017.

"I don't have experience winning in the U.S., but I do have some experience in Korea, so it's not an unfamiliar feeling right now. I hope to put up good results the next two days," An said.

Alena Sharp, the Hamilton, Ont., native who recently lost her LPGA Tour card, was also set to play the weekend, sitting 3-under for the tournament.

Maddie Szeryk, of London, Ont., is likely to progress to weekend play after shooting a 3-under 68 on Friday. The 26-year-old said on Thursday that the spotlight on Henderson helped ease some of the pressure.

"I think you cheer for all the Canadians. You want everyone to do well," she said.

Toronto amateur Lauren Zaretsky made good on Thursday's hole-in-one by also likely playing her way into the weekend, alongside fellow Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham, who was right on the cutline at 2-under. Meanwhile, Sarah-Eve Rheaume sits just below the cutline at 1-under.

Canadian celebration

While an LPGA tournament featuring plenty of big names and top players was at stake, the event also represented a celebration of sorts for the Canadian contingent.

That was truer for Kane than anyone, who made a clear effort to soak in the atmosphere, even bowing to the crowd at one point as the skies seemed to open up just in time for her final hole.

Kane was grouped with the 41-year-old Sharp, who like Henderson wore shoes with the Maple Leaf on them.

"One of those Canadians that you just want to root for and I wanted to help," Kane said of Sharp. "I think she's got so much game left, it's not funny. And so I told her she needs to keep going and keep working hard."

Vancouver's Lin played in a group with 33-year-old Maude-Aimée LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., who recently earned a top-10 finish at the Scottish Open.

However, early blemishes likely extinguished either's hopes of making the cut.

Monet Chun, the Richmond Hill, Ont., native who came into Ottawa having just reached the final of the U.S. Women's Amateur Open, also was unlikely to play into the weekend.

You could call it the golden generation of Canadian golf — really, Henderson's numbers alone (12 wins, including two majors) get you most of the way there.

On the men's side, two Canadians could make the Presidents Cup team, made up of the best non-American, non-European players, for the first time ever. Corey Conners has already secured his spot, while Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin are firmly in the hunt.

Combined with growing amateur interest throughout the pandemic, the sport has maybe never been in a better place.

Separated by 45 years, it was goodbye for Kane and hello for Lin in Ottawa.

And in the middle there was Henderson, welcomed back by a crowd eager to watch their hometown hero.