The CP Women’s Open returns with a bang this week after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a star-studded field on a classic course in Canada’s capital.
The field is highlighted not only by local hero Brooke Henderson, who grew up less than an hour away from the host venue, Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, but also most of the world’s best female golfers.
Eighty-two of the top 100 women in the LPGA Tour’s CME Globe standings this season plan to be in Ottawa for the 48th playing of the national championship. “After two years of cancellation because of the pandemic, we know that Canadian golf fans and event enthusiasts are excited,” tournament director Ryan Paul said.
The competitors include South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, the world No. 1 and defending champion, as well as all five winners of the LPGA’s majors in 2022 (Jennifer Kupcho, Minjee Lee, In Gee Chun, Henderson and Ashleigh Buhai).
Other top names entered are Nelly Korda, Lydia Ko and Danielle Kang, the latter making her return to action after sitting out since the U.S. Women’s Open in early June because of a tumor on her spine. “I know you missed us,” Kang recently tweeted, tongue in cheek. “See you in Canada.”
At Ottawa Hunt, the field of 156 will face a tree-lined parkland course designed by Willie Park Jr. more than 100 years ago, and updated by noted Canadian architect Thomas McBroom in the late 1980s. It has played host to the CP Women’s Open three other times.
For all of its traditional aspects, the course will feature some modern touches for fans. Organizers at Golf Canada are bringing “The Rink” to the women’s championship for the first time, circling the par-3 17th hole at Ottawa Hunt with hockey-arena dasher boards. The Rink was introduced at the men’s 2017 RBC Canadian Open and has become an event signature, giving fans an opportunity to welcome players to the tee box and applaud shots by thumping their hands on the boards as they would at a hockey game.
Henderson leads Canadian crew: There will be at least 15 Canadians in the field this week at the CP Women’s Open, a robust collection that includes the country’s biggest star, Brooke Henderson, a handful of young prospects and a legend making her swansong.
Henderson, a 12-time winner on the LPGA Tour, tends to generate buzz in most places she plays, but this week may be especially electric as she competes at Ottawa Hunt, not far from her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario.
Henderson, who won the national championship in 2018, is also one of seven past champions entered this week.
This will be Henderson’s second CP Women’s Open at Ottawa Hunt, where she’s an honorary member. This time, she may be better prepared for the crowds that are sure to follow.
“In 2017, when I showed up Thursday morning – my tee time, I think, was 8 o’clock – I was thinking there’s going to be a couple of people,” she recalled at a recent media event. “But when I showed up to the first tee, there were lines of people on both sides. It was just a phenomenal experience.”
The future of Canadian golf also will be on display this week in the form of promising amateurs such as Monet Chun – who won the Canadian Women’s Amateur this summer and reached the final at this month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur – plus Katie Cranston, Savannah Grewal, Sarah-Ève Rhéaume and Lauren Zaretsky.
The most emotions, though, might surround Lorie Kane as she makes her 30th and final appearance in the championship. No one has made more starts in the event, which dates to 1973.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a while and I just think it’s the right time,” said the 57-year-old from Charlottetown, a four-time LPGA winner and a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
The Canadian contingent could grow a bit in size after the final qualifier for the CP Women’s Open on Monday. Four spots are up for grabs.
Costabile makes strides as pro: Selena Costabile knew she wanted to be a pro golfer on the LPGA Tour after attending the Manulife LPGA Classic in southwestern Ontario as a 14-year-old spectator. There, she was transfixed by Lexi Thompson’s style of play and the whole environment of a big pro event.
“She’s inspired so many kids, and I guess I was one of them,” Costabile said of the dashing American known for her long-hitting and aggressive manner.
This week, Costabile will live the dream, not only competing against Thompson and other elite pros at the CP Women’s Open but also taking a big step in her career development.
The 24-year-old is Canada’s top performer on the second-tier Epson Tour this season and received an invitation to make her debut in the CP Women’s Open this week. While she’s had two other LPGA starts in previous years, this one comes as she’s gained comfort as a traveling pro and is producing the best results of her career.
She tied for fourth place at the Epson Tour’s recent Four Winds Invitational, just a shot out of a playoff. It was the highest finish in her two full-time years on the circuit and her second top-10 result in three starts. “I feel like I’m finding my footing this year,” she said last week in a conversation by phone as she drove to Ottawa from her hometown of Thornhill, Ontario.
Her footing will be put to the test this week on home soil in a bigger arena, especially with family and friends cheering her on. Almost all of them haven’t watched her play in-person since the pandemic began. But she’s determined to keep the week in perspective.
“I’m just trying to prepare for it as a regular tournament,” Costabile said.
Chun seeks to extend summer run: High-flying amateur Monet Chun will make her LPGA Tour debut this week in Ottawa, yet another milestone in a summer full of them.
With the possible exception of Henderson, who added another major title to her résumé a month ago, no Canadian female golfer has had a hotter summer than Chun. The 21-year-old, a member of Canada’s national amateur team who attends the University of Michigan, won the Canadian Women’s Amateur in July and then reached the final match of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay this month.
Her success has vaulted her to being Canada’s top-ranked female amateur, world No. 108 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking as of last week.
Now Chun is set to play against the pros at the CP Women’s Open, fulfilling a dream she’s had at least since she was a precocious 12-year-old who tried to qualify for the event.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Chun said last week from her home in Richmond Hill, Ontario. “But with the summer I’m having, it’s a good time to get the chance.”
Regardless of the outcome this week, Chun is back to the high level of golf she played through most of her teens before she went through a few years of intermittent slumping. She attributed the dark period to both technical and mental struggles but said she came out the other side thanks to the support she received from family and friends, the national team and her Michigan teammates.
Her perseverance will be rewarded this week. Chun said she’s eager to see how her game stacks up against the world’s best women on a tour she hopes to join one day, and she’s looking forward to reuniting with her Canadian teammates, many of whom also received invitations to play. Chun will have her younger sister, Adele, on the bag as caddie, taking the edge off some of the nervousness of such a grand stage.
Thibault to make pro debut: Brigitte Thibault will be playing in the CP Women’s Open as a professional, according to Golf Canada, leaving behind a decorated amateur career that included winning the Ontario Women’s Amateur and the prestigious Dixie Amateur and Women’s Western Amateur in the United States. She also was Canada’s first competitor in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Thibault of Rosemère, Quebec, has been a member of Canada’s national amateur team for four years and peaked in the WAGR at No. 105. She also won a couple of tournaments in U.S. college golf while at Fresno State.
The next big step: While an invitation to the CP Women’s Open represents a huge honor and opportunity for Canadians Katie Cranston, Megan Osland, Sarah-Ève Rhéaume and Brigitte Thibault, it’s not the most important event for their careers this month.
The quartet were among 14 Canadians who were in Rancho Mirage, California, last week battling for jobs next season. They competed in the first stage of the LPGA Tour’s multipronged qualifying school.
Approximately the top one-third of first-stage finishers late Sunday advanced to the second stage in October. The top second-stage finishers then advance to Q-Series, an eight-round final stage in which about 45 LPGA Tour cards for next year will be up for grabs. Players finishing outside the top 45 at Q-Series receive playing cards on the second-tier Epson Tour.
For results from Sunday’s late finish in California, click here.
Trailblazer for Nakota Sioux Nation: Among the other intriguing Canadians in the first stage of the LPGA qualifying school was Skyesong Alexis, one of the country’s few Indigenous golfers to have made a mark in competitive golf.
Alexis, now in her early 30s and a mother of two, is from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in Alberta. Highlights of her amateur career included a gold medal at the North American Indigenous Games in 2008 and a third-place finish a decade later at the Alberta Ladies Amateur.
She has openly discussed the racism and limited playing and practice opportunities she faced growing up, but remains determined as a pro in her quest to reach the LPGA Tour.
“I’m proud that I pushed through all the challenges to get where I am today – playing at a professional level,” Alexis said this year in an interview posted on the website of one of her sponsors, Backwoods Energy Services. “I feel like I am exactly where I belong.”
The lone Canadian in U.S. Amateur match play: Canadian men couldn’t summon the same sort of magic at the U.S. Amateur in New Jersey last week as compatriot Chun did a week earlier at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Matthew Anderson, a member of the national amateur team from Mississauga, Ontario, was the only Canadian to advance from the stroke-play portion of the marquee U.S. event, but he was knocked out in the Round of 64 by American Maxwell Moldovan. Fellow amateur team member A.J. Ewart was among the four Canadians who didn’t reach the match-play portion.
Annika Invitational reaches into Canada: Annika Sörenstam’s tournament series for girls is reaching into Canada for the first time. The Annika Invitational is holding a qualifying tournament next week in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Eighty-four girls 12-18 will compete at Legends on the Niagara to win berths into the Annika Invitational next January in Florida and the Annika Invitational Europe next June in Sörenstam’s home country of Sweden.
“I know that Canada has one of the highest golf-participation rates in the world, so we’re excited to connect with the country’s best girls and tap into that strong passion for golf,” said Sörenstam, an LPGA Tour legend whose 72 LPGA victories included the 2001 Canadian Women’s Open.
The Annika Invitational launched in 2009, and since then 87 participants in her events have gone on to earn LPGA Tour status.
Gligic, Sloan seek to retain PGA Tour cards: Canadians Michael Gligic and Roger Sloan didn’t finish high enough in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings to keep their full-time cards for next season, but they still have a chance to regain their playing privileges on the top tour.
Gligic of Burlington, Ontario, and Sloan of Merritt, British Columbia, finished between No. 126 and No. 200 in the FedEx standings, making them at least eligible for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-tournament series that began last week in Idaho.
The top 25 cumulative finishers after the three events earn PGA Tour cards for 2022-23. Gligic and Sloan are the only two Canadians in the finals, which wrap up in early September in Indiana.
Veteran David Hearn of Brantford, Ontario, finished outside the top 200 and didn’t qualify for the finals, leaving his future uncertain. The 43-year-old made just 12 starts this season on the PGA Tour.
Six other Canadians (Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Hadwin, Adam Svensson, Nick Taylor and Taylor Pendrith) retained their PGA Tour cards.
Canadians on the world stage: Garrett Rank, a National Hockey League referee who plays elite amateur golf in his spare time, has been chosen for the six-member team that will represent Canada at the World Amateur Team Championships near Paris at the end of this month. Rank, 34, earned his spot by being one of Canada’s three highest-ranked male amateur golfers.
The three-time Canadian Mid-Amateur champion will make his third appearance in the biennial world event and be joined in France by compatriots Johnny Travale and A.J. Ewart. Competition in the men’s division begins Aug. 31.
Three 17-year-olds – Lauren Kim, Nicole Gal and Brooke Rivers – will carry the Maple Leaf in the women’s competition. Play for them begins Wednesday.
Both tournaments will be played at Le Golf National (Albatros) and Golf de Saint-Nom-La-Brèteche (Red).
British Columbia sweeps gold: Led by gold-medal winners Cooper Humphreys of Vernon and Tina Jiang of Richmond, the British Columbia team swept the team and individual honors at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games over the weekend at Niagara Falls, Ontario. B.C. also won the new mixed-team competition at Legends-on-the-Niagara’s Battlefield Course. For results, click here.
Top: Brooke Henderson comes home to Ottawa Hunt with a second major title won last month