Henderson gets the LPGA season off to a good start

Oh, Canada! Brooke Henderson dominated the LPGA’s Tournament of Champions.

ORLANDO, FL. — 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 show — featuring 29 LPGA players who had won tournaments in the last two years and a concurrent co-ed 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 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 four-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,’’ said Hull.  “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).’’

“This wasn’t a normal competition, but if I keep going like this it could be my best year yet,’’ said Stark.

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,’’ said Henderson.  “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 time that division turned into a unique sideshow because it featured a load of Chicago athletic stars, past and present. Jeremy Roenick, the former Blackhawks’ great, did the best of that lot.  Paired with legendary golfer and Lake Nona member Annika Sorenstam, Roenick finished fifth – one point behind Sorenstam.  Brian Urlacher, the ex-Bears’ star, tied for ninth. Baseballers Ian Happ, Jon Lester, Greg Maddux and A.J. Pierzynski were also in the celebrity field.