Henderson, 15, excited to be at her first USWO

Brooke Mackenzie Henderson of Canada walks with her sister/caddie Brittany during the first round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club.

Brooke Mackenzie Henderson of Canada walks with her sister/caddie Brittany during the first round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club.

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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Brooke Mackenzie Henderson is the kind of fresh air fans love about our national Open. She’s 15 years old, with dimples in her cheeks and excitement in her eyes. She’s serious about her first U.S. Women’s Open, but not serious enough to act like she owns the place. In short: She’s thrilled to be here, and hopes like heck to make the cut.

Henderson curled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Sebonack Golf Club to shoot 1-under 71. She’s tied for low amateur honors with USC’s Kyung Kim and one shot in front of the more well-known Lydia Ko, 16.

Henderson’s claim to fame is that she broke Ko’s record of youngest player to win a professional title last year by capturing a CN Canadian Women’s Tour event in Quebec. Henderson, a native of Ontario, was 14 at the time.

“Brooke, being Brooke, breaks down every barrier we put in front of her,” said Golf Canada women’s head coach Tristan Mullally.

Henderson shot 8-under 136 to share co-medalist honors with NCAA champ Annie Park at her USWO qualifier at River Vale. Once Brooke punched her ticket, about a dozen friends and family members made plans to make the eight-hour drive from Smith Falls, Ontario, to cheer her on. Ladies from her home club – Smith Falls Golf & Country Club – even brought maple-leaf buttons that read, “Go Brooke.”

On the bag for Henderson this week is older sister Brittany, who just wrapped up a business degree at Coastal Carolina, where she played college golf.

“People say we look alike,” said Brittany, and they do.

The Henderson girls wore red shirts on Thursday, their long blond hair pulled back underneath black visors. They might be seven years apart in age, but they stand about the same height and are a similar build. When the sisters meet up at the course by the family cottage for a friendly match, it’s usually close. And there’s always something on the line.

“OK, you’re buying the ice cream,” Brittany might tell her baby sis.

Brooke considers Brittany to be a huge role model and has her sights on following her into college golf.

“When I was younger, I grew up watching her and wanted to be just like her,” Brooke said.

Henderson only recently gave up her career as a hockey goalie, a sport that undoubtedly made her tough. In addition to her pro victory, she won the 2012 Canadian Junior Girls Championship last August and won the South American Amateur in January. Brooke was also part of Canada’s winning team at the 2013 Copa de las Americas.

Get used to this name: Henderson’s achievements have earned her sponsor exemptions into the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic later this month in Ontario and the CN Canadian Women’s Open in August. Last year Henderson set the record for youngest to ever compete in the Canadian Women’s Open.

“Just taking in the experience right now and gaining as much as I can,” Herderson said.

So far she’s well ahead of the curve.

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