April 13, 2018 / 4:10 AM / a year ago

Golf: From stopping pucks to sinking putts, Henderson switch pays off

(Reuters) - Canadian Brooke Henderson gave up ice hockey six years ago to focus on golf but the former goaltender says the time ‘between the pipes’ helped prepare her for life on the elite women’s tour.

Mar 29, 2018; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Brooke Henderson tees off on the second hole during the first round of the ANA Inspiration women's golf tournament at Mission Hills CC - Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The 20-year-old, who shot a six-under-par 66 to take the second round lead of the LPGA’s Lotte Championship in Hawaii on Thursday, said playing Canada’s favorite sport had given her both mental and physical strength.

“I was a goalie and everybody kind of depends on you,” she told reporters at Ko Olina on Oahu. “So you’re either the hero or you’re far from it.

“Mentally I really developed really fast I think that way, and physically as well, carrying around all that heavy equipment and skating with my team mates.

“It was a lot of fun growing up and I kind of miss it a little bit.”

She said it had been a difficult decision to hang up her skates when she was 14.

“It was a little bit, but I was better at golf and it’s worked out,” she added.

Growing up in the small town of Smiths Falls in Eastern Ontario, it was difficult for Henderson not to be influenced by ice hockey.

“We have 9,000 people and we have three hockey rinks,” she said, adding that her father was also a goaltender for a major junior ice hockey team.

“My dad played goalie for University of Toronto, and also for the Ottawa 67s for a little bit too, which was pretty awesome,” added Henderson, who has five wins on the LPGA Tour, including a major in the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship.

After three top 10 finishes in her first four starts this season, Henderson’s form has dipped over the last few weeks but she said her putting was starting to come good again.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot obviously at the top, but I feel like I’m hitting the ball really well and I can depend on my putting right now, which is a big key for me when I’m playing well,” she said.

“I feel like really confident right now the way I’m putting it. I’m seeing the line, which is always nice as well.”

Henderson leads on 10-under 134, two shots ahead of American Mo Martin (67) and first-round leader Shanshan Feng of China (69).

Writing by Peter Rutherford in Seoul; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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