Editor’s note: This story was originally published August 26, 2016. It has been updated following her win at the 2018 CP Women’s Open.
Brooke Henderson is a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
This most Canadians – golf fans and non-fans alike – probably know.
Brooke Henderson is also a former hockey champion.
Before the 20-year-old Henderson became the first Canadian in 45 years to
win on home soil at the CP Women’s Open, she was a goaltender for the
Smiths Falls Cubs for six seasons.
“My favourite hockey memory is probably when we won provincials,” she says.
“It wasn’t A level, but it was B and the next year we won bronze in BB. I
come from a very small town of 9,000 people, so for us to do that together
and go through that long journey [was special]. That one season we won
every single game and won six tournaments. It was a lot of fun and it
taught me how fun winning was.”
Initially a figure skater, Henderson was eight when someone with the Smiths
Falls Girls Hockey Association asked if she’d be interested in being the
team’s goalie. Probably figured she’d be a natural: her dad, Dave, had been
a goaltender for the CJHL’s Nepean Raiders and OHL’s Ottawa 67s. He also
played for the University of Toronto, under head coach Mike Keenan.
Henderson, for her part, was looking to try something different.
“I loved [playing hockey] right away,” she says. “I built so many amazing
friendships and my teams did pretty well. We had a lot of victories and
some losses, but we took it together as a team. It really taught me a lot
in many other sports.”
Henderson had already been golfing for five years by the time she took up
hockey and enjoyed having a competitive winter sport to balance out one in
the summer. Neither was ever left completely behind, though, no matter what
the calendar said. During downtime at the golf course, for instance, she’d
set up close to a wall and throw a tennis ball against it, working on the
reflexes she’d need to flash some leather come fall.
“To be a goalie you have to be a little bit strange, a little bit odd,”
Henderson said at a news conference ahead of the 2015 CP Women’s Open.
Adding her country’s national championship to her six LGPA titles – and a
seventh-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games – meant a career goal
reached, with a secondary assist going to what she learned between the
“Being a goalie there’s a lot of pressure, and I was able to handle that
pretty well,” she says. “Now playing golf for a living, having that
pressure as a goalie has really prepared me for every single week out on
Let in a bad goal? You need to bounce back quickly to move on and stay in
the game. Miss a putt to make par? Same thing.
Goaltender can be a lonely position, even when she’s one of six people on
the same side on the ice.
“Hockey’s such a team sport whereas golf is kind of more individual, so it
taught me that team aspect and how important it is to work together, so now
my sister is my caddy, my dad’s my coach, I have a ton of other people
working with me so that I can have success out on tour. That teamwork was
kind of taught to me by hockey.”
The sport not only made her mentally stronger but physically as well.
“Physically, my forearms and my legs from carrying around all the equipment
all the time and being able to shoot pucks with a blocker and trapper on,
it gave me a lot of strength that otherwise I might not have and you can
see it in my golf swing,” she says. “I can hit the ball quite a bit farther
than a lot of the other girls just because I have that hockey background.”
Henderson doesn’t have much time to get on the ice anymore. It’s been four
years since her last game, but not nearly as long since her last save. When
she announced her decision to turn pro in December 2014, she did so with
help from her favourite NHL team. The Ottawa Senators shot a short video
with Henderson in net facing shots from defenceman Mark Borowiecki, an
alumnus of the CCHL’s Smiths Falls Bears.
(The video shows Henderson failing to make a single save and saying she
should stick to golf; however, it took multiple takes for her to let in so
many shots. “She definitely challenged a lot in the crease,” Borowiecki
told the Ottawa Sun at the time. “She was out high. I had to sneak a few
through five-hole. I didn’t have much to shoot at.”)
While Henderson now is unable to play hockey herself, she hopes others get
on the ice and enjoy the same benefits.
“I think hockey is an incredible sport. It teaches you so many things and
it’s a great way to come together as a community.”