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Canada's Olympic golf team complete as Henderson, Sharp join squad

CALGARY — A busy summer schedule for Brooke Henderson will include two high-profile events where she’ll proudly represent her home country.
Alena Sharp smiles after her shot on the 10th green during the first round of LPGA Ford Championship golf tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Gilbert, Ariz. Canada's golf team for the Paris Olympics is complete, with Brooke Henderson and Sharp set to play in the women's event. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt York

CALGARY — A busy summer schedule for Brooke Henderson will include two high-profile events where she’ll proudly represent her home country.

After competing at the 50th playing of the CPKC Women’s Open at Calgary’s Earl Grey Golf Club, the 26-year-old superstar from Smiths Falls, Ont., will quickly turn her attentions towards preparing for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“I have a really exciting summer coming up and then to add Paris to that list is super cool,” said Henderson, who was in Calgary on Monday at a press conference ahead of the LPGA Tour's CPKC Women's Open.

"To become an Olympian as an athlete I think is one of the most special things and probably the highlight of being an athlete is becoming an Olympian. To go and represent Canada is such an honour and I’m very proud of that."

Henderson and veteran golfer Alena Sharp, 43, of Hamilton, qualified to represent Canada at the Paris Olympics as the top two Canadians in the world rankings when the qualification window closed Sunday.

“I always feel, like Brooke said, a lot of pride in wearing the red and white and you go there and you’re part of Team Canada,” said Sharp, who will be competing at her 19th Canadian national championship in Calgary. “You’re playing for yourself, yes, because you want to win a medal, but you’re representing your country and there’s no greater honour.”

It will be the third Olympics for both Henderson and Sharp.

Henderson, a 13-time winner on the LPGA Tour who is ranked No. 14 in the world, finished tied for seventh when golf returned to the Olympics after a 112-year absence at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. She finished tied for 29th at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Sharp, ranked No. 292 in the world, was 30th in Rio and 40th in Tokyo. She is coming off a bronze-medal win at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Nick Taylor and Corey Conners were named to the Canadian Olympic team last week.

Earl Grey will be hosting the CPKC Women’s Open for the first time, but the event was held at Priddis Golf and Country Club southwest of Calgary in 1999, 2009 and 2016.

Sharp had the best result of her LPGA Tour career at the 2016 Canadian championship when she birdied her last two holes in the final round to place fourth at 16 under. Meanwhile, Henderson shot 69 in her final round to tie for 14th at 11-under at the age of 18.

"It’s so exciting to be able to be home and compete on home soil and to have the love and support of all the fans and everyone that comes out to watch, it’s pretty incredible,” said Henderson. "It’s kind of hard to put into words how grateful I am to everyone when they come out year after year and as we move across the country the crowds are always still huge and so much fun to be able to play in front of.

"I just hope I can put on a good show and give them something to cheer about."

Henderson won the national championship in 2018 at Regina’s Wascana Country Club by four strokes when she finished at 21 under.

"It’s a huge highlight of my career being able to win this event back in 2018," said Henderson. "I’ve always dreamt of winning this event. It’s always played an important role in my life."

Henderson added she’s proud of the more than $19 million that the tournament has raised through its CPKC Has Heart initiative to support cardiac research, equipment and care across North America.

American golfer Megan Khang will also tee off at Earl Grey. She won last year’s CPKC Women’s Open in a one-hole playoff over South Korea’s Jin Young Ko at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.

"The way I won it, I taught myself that I do have the grit and when it comes to it, you’ve just got to hunker down and go for broke sometimes," Khang said. “To be able to pull it off against Jin Young Ko, who’s a phenomenal golfer, it definitely gave me a lot of confidence. That playoff was definitely the most never-wracking moment in my career up to this point. I wouldn’t change it for anything else just because of all the lessons it taught me."

The field also includes three-time CPKC Women’s Open champion Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, Jennifer Kupcho, In Gee Chun, Danielle Kang, Sei Young Kim, Linn Grant and Maja Stark. Lexi Thompson will compete in her final Canadian championship after announcing she will retire from competitive golf at the end of the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2024.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press