Canadian Women’s Open Golf – Preview
It has been three long years, but the best female golfers in the world have returned to Canada. The 2022 CP Canadian Women’s open is being held in our nation’s capital at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
It has been over 1000 days since Jin Young Ko won the last Canadian Women’s Open. That took place in 2019 at the Magna Golf Club in Aurora. Ko obliterated the tournament scoring record, finishing at 26 under par. She played all 72 holes without a bogey. Those 72 holes were part of a professional golf record of 114 consecutive holes without a bogey for Ko. Even Tiger Woods has never done that (although he did once go 110 holes without a bogey on the PGA tour).
Ko is back this year to defend her title. She is currently the number one ranked female golfer in the Rolex World Golf rankings. And she is happy to be back in Canada.
“Yeah, I’m always happy to be back here, Canada,” said the native of South Korea during a meeting with the media on Tuesday. “I love Canada. After 2019 I was ready to play, defend in 2020. But we had like the worst in the world (referring to Covid), so we couldn’t play in Canada or wherever. So it’s been almost three years actually to be back here. So yeah, I feel good.”
Ko is one of 41 of the top 50 money winners on the tour this year to be in the field this week. The field includes 7 past winners of the tournament along with winners of the 5 majors on the LPGA tour this year.
One of those major winners is Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa. She won the Women’s British open in early August in a playoff for not only the first major of her career, but her first win on the LPGA tour ever. With the win, not only was there a paycheck of $1,095,000 (which boosted her winnings this year to $1,455,495, 9th on the money list), but it also gave her more visibility and notoriety.
“Yes definitely,” said Buhai when asked if people are noticing her more this week. “Even on Sunday I was just in the parking area and I was backing up and a lady said “hey” and I thought I had done something wrong. And she’s like “you just won the Open Championship, didn’t you?”. She was just saying congratulations. Yeah, a few more people have definitely noticed me. Few more autographs to sign. It’s a pretty cool feeling to have.”
There are 18 Canadians in the field this week. One of them is amateur Monet Chun. The native of Richmond Hill, Ontario was the runner up at the US Women’s Amateur two weeks ago at Chambers Bay, Washington. She received a sponsor’s invitation after winning the Canadian women’s amateur championship earlier this summer. When the tournament is over, she will be off to class at the University of Michigan which starts up on August 27.
“Yeah, this is my first professional event, so I think I’m looking forward to the experience overall,” said Chun on Tuesday. “I’m excited to see all the players out there and just play good golf.”
Another Canadian to watch out for is Maude-Aimee Leblanc. The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, took most of 2019 and 2020 off from playing golf after she felt she had lost her love for the game. She only returned in 2021 to play on the Epson Tour (sort of the minor league tour for women). She played well enough there to earn a promotion back to the LPGA tour this season. And it has paid off for her with three top 10 finishes and 10 made cuts out of the 16 tournaments she has played this year. She has won over $233,000 so far.
“It’s great to play here. I always say this is my favourite tournament,” said Leblanc. “It’s a tournament I look the most forward to. That it’s so close to home makes it even more special. You’ll see some French-Canadians this week.”
And then there is Michelle Liu and Lucy Lin, both of Vancouver. Both of them were among the four golfers who qualified for the CP Canadian Women’s open during Monday’s qualifying tournament. For Liu, she played in the event in 2019 when she was 12 years, 9 months and 7 days old. That was the record for youngest ever to play in the event. But that record will be broken on Thursday when Lin tees it up. She clocks in at 12 years, 7 months and 12 days, a little under 2 months younger than Liu was back in 2019.
“Definitely not, but it was always a dream,” said Lin after her practice round on Tuesday when asked if she ever expected to be here in front of a horde of reporters. “It's a dream come true, definitely being here like at a very young age. But super excited. Going into Monday I wasn't really knowing I would be here, but I did my best I could. But I ended up here, so I'm really excited about it.”
Of course the face of the tournament is Canadian Brooke Henderson. She has won 12 times in her career on the LPGA tour, including the 2018 Canadian Women’s open in Regina. That is the record for the most wins of any Canadian professional golfer on either the PGA or LPGA tour. She also won the second major of her career in late July this year when she sunk a birdie putt on the 72nd and final hole to win the Amundi Evian Championship.
Henderson is a native of Smith's Falls, Ontario, only a 50-minute drive to Ottawa. The Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club is her home course and back at the 2017 tournament which was held there, Henderson shot a course record 63 in the third round, a record she still holds. The organizers expect over 70,000 spectators to file through the gates over the four days, and many of them, if not all of them, will be wanting to watch and cheer for Henderson.
- The Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club was hit by a major windstorm back in May. Over 1100 trees were uprooted throughout the course. Course superintendent Eric Ruhs had to enlist the help of area course and other Ontario superintendents, along with various tree removal companies to help restore the course to a safe and playable level. The course was closed to members for 16 days while the work was done. At one point there was a pile of mulch from the trees that had been cut down that was over 250 feet long and 28 feet high! There was major concern that the course would be ready in time for the Women’s open in August. But the course is ready and is in great shape.
- The golf course was built in 1921 and had the first of its two renovations in 1990 (the other was 2012). It has very undulating (read: not level) fairways, with elevated greens surrounded by many bunkers. However, it has rained quite a bit lately and thus the course is fairly soft. Many, including Brooke Henderson, are predicting low scores this week.
- This is the 3rd time the tournament has been held at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. In 1994 Martha Nause won what was then known as the DuMaurier Classic (which was one of the 4 majors on the LPGA tour); In 2008 Katherine Hull-Kirk won the CN Canadian Women’s Open; In 2017 Sung Hyun Park was the CP Canadian Women’s Open champion.
- The tournament has been held three times in London at the London Hunt Club. In 1993, as the DuMaurier classic, Brandie Burton was the winner, beating Betsy King; In 2006 Kristie Kerr came from 8 strokes back in the final round to beat Angela Stanford (that is still the record for greatest deficit overcome to win); In 2014 So Yeon Ryu won going away with a score of 23 under par. The 2014 tournament is special as well since it was the first one in which Brooke Henderson made the cut. She was a 16 year old amateur at the time (she finished tied for 46th)
- The first official Canadian Women’s open was held back in 1973, won by Canadian legend Jocelyn Bourassa (she and Henderson are the only two Canadians to win the tournament). But from 1966 to 1969, there was the Ladies Supertest open. The first two of those tournaments were played as a 54-hole event at Sunningdale Golf Course in London. Kathy Whitworth won the inaugural event in 1966 (one of her 88 career victories on the LPGA tour!) by two strokes over the legendary Mickey Wright. Whitworth won $2250 for her efforts. This year’s winner will take home $352,500 (US).
- The 155-yard, par three 17th hole is set up to resemble a hockey rink, with boards surrounding the tee off area, much like the 16th hole at the recent RBC Men’s Open Golf tournament. Players seem to be really enthusiastic about what the atmosphere will be like at the hole. During a practice round on Tuesday, golfer Megan Khang tried on a goalie mask (but did not wear it while she hit). Lorie Kane plans to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey on the hole (prompting one member of the media to say that it might be the only time she will be booed at this tournament in her career). Brooke Henderson plans to wear an Ottawa Senators jersey while she walks to the green. American Danielle Kang, who is returning to the tour after a self imposed two-month break for health reasons, is excited to experience the banging on the boards and the general atmosphere that is expected to be generated at the hole this week.
- Speaking of Canadian golf hall of famer Lorie Kane, she will be making her 30th (consecutive) and final appearance at this year’s tournament. That is the record for most appearances. In her 29 previous appearances, she made the cut 13 times (the last in 2011). She had 5 top 10 finishes, with her best result being a tie for 3rd in 2001, which was the first year after the tournaments lost its major sponsor (the tobacco company DuMaurier), and lost it’s designation as a major. It was known as the BMO Financial Group Canadian Women’s Open with BMO stepping in at the 11th hour to save the tournament.
- Two new awards were announced on Wednesday that will honour Lorie Kane’s contributions to not only women’s golf, but to the community. Golf Canada announced that the Lorie Kane Community Spirit Awards will be awarded to a volunteer who has made a major contribution to golf and to their community, one for 19 and older, and one for under 19. The winners also get $5000.
- Also announced Wednesday was that the Federal Government has committed $4.4 million to support Golf Canada. The announcement was made by the Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board and Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier. The money will be used mainly to enhance the spectator experience at current and future Canadian men’s and women’s opens.
- Finally, the tournament begins on Thursday morning with the first groups going off the 1st and 10th tees at 7:10 am. One of those players teeing off that early is Maddie Szeryk. She is making her second appearance at the Canadian Women’s Open and she is from London, Ontario!