Brooke Henderson has been playing golf since she was six years old. (Golf Canada/Bernard Brault)Tristan Mullally wanted to see for himself. Though the head coach of Golf Canada's women's development team had heard a lot about 14-year-old amateur Brooke Henderson, he had never watched her swing a club with his own eyes and didn't want anyone else's opinion to cloud his first impression.
"I was really impressed with her speed, her agility and physical strength," he said of Henderson. "When you normally see a 14-year-old they tend to not have that physical strength, but she certainly didn't fit that mould."
More than six months after watching her for the first time, Mullally is coaching Henderson, of Smith Falls, Ont., towards the biggest challenge of her young career. In August she'll tee off against some of the biggest names in her sport, including fellow Canadian Lorie Kane and world No. 1 Yani Tseng, as the youngest qualifier ever for the CN Canadian Women's Open in Vancouver, B.C.
She earned a spot in the tournament after a first-place finish at the CN Canadian Women's Tour professional event at the Beloeil Golf Club near Montreal just a few weeks ago where she beat American LPGA Tour member Lisa Ferrero by two strokes.A trip to Vancouver will cap what's been an impressive year for Brooke Henderson. (Golf Canada/Bernard Brault)
The types of experiences she's had in professional tournaments already is what Mullally feels will help her through the upcoming challenge.
"She played with [fellow Canadian] Stephanie Sherlock and a couple of really strong players in the last few events and she's had the opportunity to kind of rub shoulders with them and they've shared advice and given her feedback," Mullally said.
"I think when it comes to the event in Vancouver both the team we have here and her parents will be a very important for her. I think we need to help her try and set realistic goals. I don't think we're going to set up any expectations in terms of her performance [because] I assure you if we did she'd probably exceed them anyways.
Henderson also can learn from the experiences of her elder sister Brittany, who currently golfs for Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina.
[Related: Former champions will be in Vancouver]
"I think having Brittany who was a really good player and played on the national team a number of years ago has been helpful to Brooke," Mullally said. "She's always had someone who's better than her to compete with."
Mullally says he's already heard comparisons between Henderson and world No. 23 Lexi Thompson who's just 17. At such a young age it's hard to gage towards an athlete's future, but Mullally firmly believes that Henderson can take her golf as far as she wants to.
"The difficulty when you've got someone this good at this young is to keep them motivated to keep going," he said. "She has definite ambition to move forward, definitely [has] things she wants to do, I think we just need to provide her with a pathway to try and get there."
Henderson gets back on the course tomorrow teeing off at the Ladies British Open Amateur Tournament at the Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.