Henderson gets LPGA season off to a good start
By Len Ziehm
Daily Herald Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. - Funny thing about the LPGA. The premier women's tour in golf ended its 2022 season and started its 2023 campaign with Florida tournaments that were marred by some discontent.
The sponsor of last November's CME Championship wasn't happy that all the players competing for the biggest first-prize in women's golf didn't show up for the tournament's gala banquet.
The players weren't happy when they arrived at Lake Nona Country Club last week for the season-opening Tournament of Champions and found out that they weren't provided with lockers in the clubhouse and that their time on the practice range would be limited.
Still, the tournament - featuring 29 LPGA players who had won tournaments in the last two years and a concurrent coed celebrity event, conducted with a Stableford point format for 56 players from the sports and entertainment world - had to go on, and it turned out to be a good one.
Especially for Canadian Brooke Henderson, who led wire-to-wire in winning the LPGA event with a 16-under par score of 272 for the 72 holes and earned $225,000. She had a 4-stroke advantage on England's Charley Hull and Sweden's Maja Stark, neither of whom were disappointed.
"It was a great way to start the season," Hull said. "When I got here I didn't know where my swing was at. Now I've got three weeks off." (the next tournament is in Thailand next month)
Stark was also pleased by how she played.
"This wasn't a normal competition, but if I keep going like this, it could be my best year yet," she said.
Henderson was the runner-up to Danielle Kang in last year's Tournament of Champions. On Sunday she claimed her 13th LPGA title in her first tournament after switching to TaylorMade clubs.
"I'm really happy I made the switch," Henderson said. "I'm super-excited. This was a dream start, and I love this championship because it's so unique."
The celebrity event was won by Mardy Fish, a former tennis star who had captained the U.S. Davis Cup team. Fish was also the celebrity champion in 2021.
This year's celeb event featured a load of Chicago athletes, past and present.
Jeremy Roenick, the former Blackhawks' great, did the best of the lot. Paired with legendary golfer and Lake Nona member Annika Sorenstam, Roenick finished fifth - a point behind Sorenstam. Ex-Bears great Brian Urlacher tied for ninth. Current Cubs Ian Happ and former Cubs Jon Lester, Greg Maddux and former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski were also in the celebrity field.