A good friend of mine, a former journalist, sent me an email on Sunday, just after Brooke Henderson put the icing on the cake of her truly magnificent victory in the CP Women’s Open… and in so doing firmly established herself as – possibly – the greatest Canadian woman golfer of all time. I say “possibly” because… well, I’ll explain that in a moment.
My friend Ian’s email gave me credit for “discovering” Brooke. This was very nice for him to say, but it’s certainly not true. It is a fact that I wrote an article for the Toronto Star about Brooke, then 16 years old, in June 2014, while she was playing in the Manulife Classic in Waterloo, ON. It was just a few days before her Grade 11 exams. I had been made aware of this young lady by people I know at Golf Canada; she was on the Golf Canada amateur team, the youngest member, and she was already turning heads and making jaws drop with her long drives, precise short game, and above all, her maturity, unflappability, and thousand-watt smile.
My article in the Star was the first feature the newspaper ever ran about her, and I’m sure what’s left of the Sports Department there is very happy they agreed to my suggestion of a story about her. But believe me, Brooke was already commanding attention in the Canadian golf world by the time she was 10 or 11.
By the time she teed off Sunday morning in Regina, with a one-stroke lead over Angel Yin, roughly 35 million people were cheering for her from St. John’s to Victoria. No doubt those thousands of people who have ever seen her play had little doubt that her maturity, unflappability, and thousand-watt smile would ensure that she would seal the deal.
Of all those people watching, on-site and on TV, were thousands of young girls and boys, members of “Brooke’s Brigade”, for whom Brooke is a genuine princess, idol, and superstar. And rightly so. Could Canada possibly have a better young role model than Brooke Henderson, who plays so well, smiles so readily, speaks so articulately, loves her parents and her sister, and never, ever complains?
But back to the word “possibly”. Right now, in 2018, there is no doubt that Brooke is the greatest active Canadian woman playing professional golf.
We cannot forget, however, another young Canadian woman, who played the game long before Brooke and her brigade took shape. In fact, long before Brooke’s parents were even born. In fact, just about the time that I was born, and that’s a long time ago.
No, I’m not talking about Sandra Post, as good as she was, and even though her record of eight LPGA wins still stands (Brooke now has seven.)
I refer to – possibly – the greatest Canadian golfer of all time, of either gender: Marlene Stewart Streit. Here’s Marlene’s career record:
- Ontario Junior Girls (2-time winner)
- Ontario Ladies’ Amateur – 1951, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977
- Ontario Senior Ladies’ Amateur (6 times)
- Canadian Women’s Amateur– 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1973
- CLGA Close Amateurs – 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1963, 1968
- CLGA Senior Women’s Amateur – 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993
- S. Women’s Intercollegiate Championship – 1956
- British Ladies Amateur– 1953
- S. Women’s Amateur– 1956
- Australian Women’s Amateur – 1963
- North and South Women’s Amateur– 1956, 1974
- S. Senior Women’s Amateur– 1985, 1994, 2003
Marlene is the only golfer, male or female, to win the Canadian, Australian, British and American Amateur Championships, a feat that will undoubtedly never be matched. She’s still a competitive player, regularly shooting her age on the golf course, and charming everyone with her (typically Canadian) modesty, and support for all our junior players. She was one of Brooke’s earliest boosters.
Brooke, of course, is 20, and has 64 years to catch up to Marlene’s level of achievement. One might say that she’s done that already, with her victory over the weekend equalling any of Marlene’s.
But I doubt that Brooke herself would say that. And as great as Brooke’s victory was, neither would I.