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Lessons from a nine-year-old girl at her first golf tourney

Brooke Henderson swings during round two at the Manulife LPGA event. Nicole Hage, wearing too much makeup apparently, looks on.

Brooke Henderson swings during round two at the Manulife LPGA event. Nicole Hage, wearing too much makeup apparently, looks on.

On Friday I decided to head to Waterloo to walk a round with teen sensation Brooke Henderson. The only issue is that my kids were around, and since I hadn’t been much in the past few weeks, I decided to do something I promised I’d never do — I took my daughter to work.

Sydney is eight, though she’ll tell you she’s nine and I’d say she’s closer to 19. She’s athletic, knows a little bit about golf, but is more interested in the Blue Jays than Tiger Woods. She often asks if I “know” a golfer who is on TV, and I’ll typically say I’ve met the person in question, but can’t claim to have much knowledge about what they are like outside the confines of a media room where I’ve asked a few perfunctory questions.

The drive from London to Waterloo was smooth. Sydney coloured and asked about what she could expect at the tournament. She’s been to golf courses, but it was clear she didn’t really have a handle on things.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the parking pass on my dash.

“That gets us special parking.”

“How is it special?” she asked.

“It gets us close to the course,” I replied.

“Will we have to walk far?” she questioned.

“Sort of.”

“I hate walking,” she replied.

Hmmm. Maybe this won’t go so well.

We arrived at the course and she patiently let me apply sun screen so my wife wouldn’t kill me she got a sunburn.

We wandered up to the media room, which Syd was reluctant to enter. Then she noticed the food.

“Can we take some of that?” she asked.

“Why not?” I said, grabbing a couple of apples and a Gatorade.

We walked out to the media shuttle, which drives you the distance to the clubhouse. Grey Silo, where the Manulife LPGA event is held, is a long way from the media room, and then it takes a five minute shuttle to get to the course. Thankfully Sydney, like all kids, loves riding in golf carts. I knew this would be a success.

We arrived at the course and Syd was nervous. She’s always been a cautious kid in new situations, though she’s typically outgoing. She gnawed on her apple, nervously looking about. That’s when I spotted Lorie Kane. I wandered over to say hello and ask a couple of questions as Kane neared her courtesy car.

“Who is this?” Lorie asked.

I’ll say Lorie Kane is one of the best interview subjects in the game. She’s chatty, opinionated and not overly worried about what people make of her opinions. She was also intrigued by Sydney, could recall the last interview I did with her (a couple of months back, for a SCOREGolf feature) and gave generously of her time. A male PGA Tour pro would have surely blown me off. We talked of her experience and take on Henderson and the chances of teen golfers.

As the conversation wound down, Sydney tapped my arm. The apple was finished.

“What do I do with this?” she whispered, gesturing to the core.

“Whip it into the bushes,” Kane said.

Sydney smiled and the pair engaged in a quick chat about sports.

We left Kane and wandered to the media shuttle.

“Is that what you do?” Sydney asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that’s what an interview is? You just talk to people?”

“Pretty much.”

“Hmmm.”

I’m not sure she was impressed, even after I told her Kane was one of the country’s all-time greats.

The media shuttle took us down to the course and we dutifully walked a couple of holes to catch up with Henderson. Sydney was fascinated that a 15-year old could play in a professional golf tournament. But her questions were intriguing.

“Is she friends with the other girls?” Sydney asked, referring to Henderson’s playing partners, Nicole Hage and Ji Young Oh.

“I’m not sure she’d know them,” I told her.

“If she plays well and beats her friends, are they still nice to her?” was her reply.

“I don’t see why not.”

“Cause they’d lose to her. Maybe they wouldn’t feel good about that.”

“I suppose that might be the case.”

“Why is that girl wearing so much makeup?” Syd asked, referring to Hage.

“I have no idea.”

“Well when she sweats it’ll run down her face,” Syd said. Interesting observation.

Nearing the end of Brooke’s round, I told Sydney I needed to interview her after she’d signed her card.

“What card?” Sydney asked. “Why would she be giving someone a card?

Good point.

“Do you ever get nervous before you interview someone?” Syd asked.

“Not really,” I told her. “It is what I do.”

“Do other Dads get paid to talk to people?”

“Only the lucky ones.”

“What will you ask her,” said Sydney as we scooted past the “security” that manned the rope to the scoring tent (tournament security never stops you if you act like you know where you’re going).

“I’ll ask her what it is like to play in a pro golf tournament at 15. I’ll talk to her about what her plans are. That sort of thing.”

That satisfied Sydney. She huddled behind me as Henderson came out and chatted with a couple of reporters.

As we finished, Sydney asked an obvious question: “So what did she say?”

I told her that Henderson was very mature for her age, that she recognized her future was likely college and that school was important. Henderson also said she understood she needed to continue improving.

“But she’s already playing here,” Sydney replied.

Good point. But you can always get better, I told her.

With that Syd requested dinner, so we hopped on a shuttle and headed for the car.

I’m not sure she was impressed by the whole affair. I wanted to show her that there is a place for young women in professional sports, since she was disappointed she likely won’t wear a Blue Jays uniform in the future. I wanted to show her how hard the women on the LPGA work and what I do for a living.

I think some of it might have rubbed off on her — but I know her questions got me thinking about issues I’d never pondered before.

 

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Robert,

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, but I am finding your writing more and more narcissistic recently. Aside from using your daughter’s experience and questions as an excuse to describe all the perks you get, I don’t see a point to the post. What does your daughter conveniently asking about your special parking pass add to the story? I know, I know, it’s your blog and you can write what you like, but hopefully you don’t mind some constructive criticism.

  • Meant to be funny and if you saw how far the parking is from the venue you might give some consideration to whether it is a “perk.”

  • Robert I was a volunteer again at the Manulife classic. I had the pleasure of talking to Lori Kane and she and many other players were kind enough to thank the volunteers for all their hard work And yes it was and is a long trek from the club house to opening tee any time you play Grey Silo. Most of the players were real kind to little girls that were there. I was working at the tenth green and witnessed a few of the players stopping to give away signed balls on their way to the eleventh tee.

    Frank

  • I really enjoyed the blog as well. I often take my 4.5 year old daughter to the range at my club and it is really interesting to see their perspective on what they like and what they find strange. Like all kids she finds the tractor that picks up balls fascinating and likes me to try to hit it.

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