Plenty of ambition for Brooke Henderson as LPGA season comes into full swing

In her first full season on the LPGA, Brooke Henderson’s career has grown by a quantum leap. Fulfilling her promise as a world-class golfer, she has risen over 200 spots in the world golf rankings, sitting fifth overall. Henderson sits in distinguished company among the top five, which includes American competitors Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and South Korea’s Inbee Park.As a side note, she is ninth on the list of earnings, having won more than $450,000 USD in prize money.

Having competed in 11 events this season, Henderson has managed an incredible Top 10 finishes on eight occasions, while her scoring average (70.02) ranks fifth overall. With ambitions to participate in 30 events before season’s end, there is no disputing her high energy.

Taking into account that her 19th birthday is still four months away, she has handled the expectations and accompanying pressures with the grace and dignity of a veteran golfer. Another noteworthy aspect to Henderson’s maturity is the fact that she has found a mentor in fellow Canadian Alena Sharp. Also a competitor on the LPGA Tour, Sharp (who is nearly twice Henderson’s age) has been like a big sister to Henderson, graciously providing her with insights about life on the tour.

During the summer of 2015, Henderson became the third-youngest winner to win an LPGA tournament, capturing the Cambia Portland Classic. Winning by an impressive eight shots, the bigger victory may have been the honor of full Tour membership afterwards. In the aftermath of such jubilation, Henderson also found time to sign an endorsement deal with BMW, another sign that her star is on the rise.

Photo credit: Frank Gunn

Photo credit: Frank Gunn

With her sister Brittany, who is a competitor on the Symetra Tour (where Brooke partly played last season), the two recently returned to their hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Both were on-hand for the Kevin Haime Kids to the Course Classic at Eagle Creek Golf Club, which was held after Mother’s Day.

In early February, Henderson experienced her best finish of the season, placing second at the Coates Golf Championship. She will be hoping for a similar finish in August at the Rio Summer Games, as golf tournament shall be contested for the first time at the Games since 1904.

Of note, the Rio Summer Games shall be wedged into quite a full golf schedule. Two weeks before Rio, one of golf’s majors shall be contested from July 28-31 as Henderson shall look for victory at the British Open. Should Henderson manage a podium finish in Rio, she will definitely be treated to a heroes welcome, as a pair of tournaments are scheduled to be held in Canada. Calgary shall be the host city for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, while Cambridge, Ontario is the backdrop for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.


Brooke Henderson grabs first career Symetra Tour win

In capturing the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn, becoming the third-youngest winner in the history of the Symetra Tour in the process, the golf calendar of 2015 continues to be Brooke Henderson’s coming-out party. The final round saw Henderson record a 3-under 69, accumulating an overall score of 10-under 206. As a side note, her sister Brittany also competed in the event.

After the first two rounds resulted in the native of Smiths Falls shooting 72 and 65, she had a strong showing during the back nine. Starting with the 11th hole, she made three straight birdies, strengthening her confidence as she looked to emerge victorious. Converting four consecutive pars afterwards, she held the lead for good. Trailing behind Henderson was Dottie Ardina of the Philippines. Achieving a birdie in the final hole, she finished with a 74 on the final day.

Complementing the career milestone for Henderson was the fact that LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan approved Henderson’s waiver petition, meaning that she is allowed the rare honor of Symetra Tour membership despite not turning 18 years of age until September 10. Accumulating $22,500 (U.S.) prize money for the win, it adds to a year of overall earnings that has seen Henderson earn over $300,000.

Rising star Brooke Henderson contributes to memorable week of golf in her hometown

Following a top five performance at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship‎, Brooke Henderson continued her whirlwind year with a stop in her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Showing her compassionate side as a sporting humanitarian, she held a Pro-Am tournament with her sister Brittany (a pro on the Symmetra Tour) at their home course.

In addition to raising funds in the region of close to $15,000, Lanark County Support Services was one of the the beneficiaries (where their mother Darlene worked), partial proceeds from the tourney were also provided for Doefstrong. Named in honor of 18-year-old Neil Doef, the aspiring hockey player endured a severe spinal cord injury during a game. Having also attended the same high school as Henderson, Doef followed Henderson in a cart for most of the event.

The event held an additional component for Henderson as she received another significant award. Presented to her at the course was her high school diploma. As she continues to stake her claim as one of the world’s finest young female golfers, she missed her graduation day. Friends and teachers greeted her on the golfing greens to celebrate a treasured milestone in anyone’s young life.

Adding to the jubilation of such a memorable day is the fact that the Canadian Tour is holding a women’s golf event in Smiths Falls during the same week. Testament to the star power of Henderson, a handful of LPGA pros are also making the trek to Henderson’s hometown to compete for $60,000 in prize money.
The pros return to the course Tuesday and Wednesday to vie for $60,000 in prize money. Not yet old enough to enjoy a drink at the clubhouse, but has already proven she can play golf with the best in the world. As a side note, 103 local sponsors signed up to show their support for the Canadian Tour event.

Hoping to earn her LPGA Tour Card in 2016, Henderson also has ambitions to compete for Canada in golf at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. Considering that hse has already earned more than $317,000, she would rank 20th overall on this year’s LPGA money list if she had membership. As long as her earnings are good enough to be considered in the top 40 of the LPGA’s money list, she will automatically earn her card for next season, avoiding Q-school. The tie for fifth at the KPMG Women’s LPGA Championship, which is also one of the majors on the LPGA resulted in Henderson finishing in the top-15 for the fifth time in seven appearances at LPGA events.

In the aftermath of the Canadian Women’s Tour event at the Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club, Brooke and Brittany Henderson both enjoyed a very admirable second and third place finish. The victor would prove to be Rebecca Lee-Bentham, of Richmond Hill, whose two-day total paced a field consisting of 90 competitors.

Having also played with the LPGA Tour, the final round for the product of the Golf Canada’s Young Pros program was a 69, bringing her two-day total score at 140, finishing two under par. Rain had caused delays on the first day of the event, forcing the grounds keeping crew to go the extra mile to ensure the course met tour standards.

Brooke would shoot a 70 on the second day, accumulating a total score of 143, while Brittany, also a member of the Symetra tour, tied for third place with a score of 146. The next Canadian appearance for Brooke Henderson shall take place at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in Coquitlam, B.C., starting on August 17.

The true victory for the Henderson sisters was the opportunity to meet the fans, sign autographs and recognize the hard work of the tournament organizers. With the success of the inaugural charity pro-am, the level of support and awareness would only increase should another one be held in 2016. Three memorable days in Smiths Falls was a heartfelt moment to give back and thank those who have supported her along the way.

Freshman Leona Maguire stakes her claim as finest golfer in NCAA

Although basketball is the first sport that is associated when fans hear the words “Duke Blue Devils”, the university has assembled a remarkable women’s golf program. This season was no exception as the club not only qualified for the NCAA tournament, but one of its freshmen was in the hunt for the NCAA women’s individual golf championship.

Finishing one stroke behind champion Emma Talley of Alabama, Duke’s Leona Maguire managed to rack up several accolades in a memorable season. The most significant may have been winning the ANNIKA Award, recognizing her as the NCAA Division I Women’s Golfer of the Year. Of note, she became only the second Duke player to win the honor, joining Amanda Blumenhurst, who earned the honor in 2006.

In addition, Maguire also garnered the WGCA’s Player of the Year Award, placing her in rarified air. The only other Duke golfers to have earned the distinction of being recognized by the WGCA include Lindy Duncan in 2012 and Celine Boutier in 2013, giving the Blue Devils a trio of winners in the last four seasons. Of note, Maguire becomes the only Duke female golfer to win both the ANNIKA Award and the WGCA POY Award in the same season.

Such achievements were complemented by the honors of being the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year Awards, respectively. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Maguire broke the program’s single season record for best stroke average. Finishing her freshman campaign with an average 70.8, it edged the former mark of 71.0, which was owned by Amanda Blumenhurst, currently a competitor on the LPGA tour.

This season, she also tied a Duke single-season record for most tournament wins in a season with three. Said tournaments included the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Title, the ACC Women’s Golf Individual Championship, and the NCAA South Regional Individual Title.

During the NCAA tournament, which features match play among the eight schools that qualify, Maguire contributed to Duke advancing to the semifinals. Earning a victory in her match of the quarterfinal round, it resulted in Duke prevailing against Texas Tech.

Unfortunately, Maguire struggled against Baylor’s Dylan Kim in the semifinals. On the 18th hole, Maguire experienced heartbreak as her putt was so close, but it stopped right at the hole of the lip, allowing Kim to prevail. Baylor built on the momentum, winning the fifth and final match to proceed to the NCAA Finals. Taking into account that Duke were the defending NCAA Tournament champions, Maguire tried valiantly to provide the program with the prestige of back-to-back championships.

Hailing from Cavan, Ireland, Maguire grew up participating in sports such as soccer and swimming. Joined on the Blue Devils roster by her twin sister Lisa, the two are poised to maintain Duke’s status as a national power in women’s golf. Considering that Stephanie Meadow recently became the first Irish player to qualify for the LPGA Tour, it would come as no surprise is Leona (one of the world’s top ranked amateur golfers) followed in her historic footsteps.

Memorable week for NCAA golf champ Emma Talley culminates with First-Team All-America honors

The Concession Club in Bradenton, Florida served as the backdrop for another exciting chapter in Emma Talley’s promising golf career. As a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide women’s golf program, she captured the NCAA women’s individual golf championship. With the win, Talley became only the fifth player to win the NCAA title and the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

As a side note, the three-time KHSAA state champion gained the title at the Amateur in 2013.
Talley’s win came in dramatic fashion as she had to wait until the 18th hole to clinch victory.

Compounded by a weather delay, she sank an 8-foot birdie putt, beating Arkansas’ Gaby Lopez and Duke’s Leona Maguire by just one stroke. Her final round resulted in a 3-under 69 and an Overall score 3-under 285. Of note, Maguire would go on to capture National Player of the Year Honors later in the week.

In her junior season with the Crimson Tide, enjoyed seven top-10 finishes, complemented by three top-five showings. She co-led all players on the team with 139 pars while ranking second with 35 birdies. During the autumn part of the season, her best finish was third at The Landfall Tradition.

Following her tournament victory, Talley was the recipient of First team All-American Honors by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. It marks the third time that Talley has been bestowed the status of All-American. After her freshman campaign, she was named to the Second-Team, while garnering Honorable Mention as a sophomore.

One of the most heralded recruits to ever tee off for the Crmison Tide, the resident of Princeton, Kentucky earned the SEC Freshman of the Year Award. Recognized by Golfweek as the Number 1 NCAA recuit in 2012, she had qualified for the 2011 and 2012 editions of the US Women’s Open. In 2014, she competed for the US at the Curtis Cup and was the low amateur at the 2014 Ladies British Open.

Admirable performance for Brooke Henderson at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

While world number one ranked golfer Lydia Ko ended up with the win at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, ascending to the top of the LPGA Tour’s winnings list, the real star of the show was teenaged phenom Brooke Henderson. Hailing from the suburbs of Ottawa, Canada, Henderson held the lead going into the final day of the event.

Although it was Ko and Morgan Pressel who would compete in the playoff to determine the tournament winner, Henderson showed that the future of women’s golf is in very good hand. Attempting to become the third woman in the history of the LPGA Tour to win a tournament before turning 18, Henderson actually held the lead for two rounds of play.

Rookie jitters were evident on the final day of play. The opening tee shot went to the right, landing behind the trees and resulting in a bogey. While established veterans Ko and Pressel managed to catch up to the ambitious Henderson, she remained in contention as late as the 18th hole. Missing a 25-foot birdie attempt on the 18th jeopardized any chance of a title win.

As the former top-ranked amateur in the world, Henderson’s gutsy performance at the Swinging Skirts was nothing short of admirable. At one time, she led the event by as much as five shots. Despite the desolation of relinquishing her lead, there is jubilation in the fact that she was able to hold her own against some of the most accomplished female golfers in the world.

Having passed on a scholarship to the University of Florida in order to pursue her dreams of professional golf, Henderson is forced to go from week to week, hoping to qualify for the next LPGA event. Last December, she was denied an opportunity to attend the LPGA’s Qualifying School, due to the fact that she was under 18.

Despite her top-10 finish at the Swinging Skirts, she still needs to qualify for events because she is not an actual LPGA member. Denied a waiver in 2014 because she did not meet the minimum age requirement of 18, a win would have ensured membership. While LPGA commissioner Mike Whan would likely grant a two-year exemption for Henderson if she can win an event this season, there is no question that Henderson is one to watch.

With the pressure of being one of Canada’s finest golfers (male or female), there is an expectation that comes with such status, one that Henderson has grown with. Her talents and resiliency will shine through, making her a sentimental favorite to win a tournament this year. Once she eventually gains membership in the LPGA, fans can expect to hear more from the very promising Henderson in the near future.

Paula Creamer fighting the good fight for sporting equality

As one of the world’s most popular and accomplished golfers, Paula Creamer is utilizing that status in an effort towards sporting equality. While Augusta National has allowed female members since 2012, chairman Billy Payne has not mentioned the possibility of the LPGA playing there in the near future.

Creamer has come forward with the suggestion that a women’s version of the Masters could follow the week after. While the LPGA boasts five major tournaments, including the US Women’s Open, Women’s PGA Championship, Women’s British Open, ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship, the prestige of Augusta National could certainly lead to a Women’s Masters.

Sadly, there remains a dinosaur mentality about such a concept. Another site went as far as to state that Billy Payne pays more respect to a dead tree than a women’s tournament. Stating that a very short member season (a duration of only seven months), compounded by the time required for preparation would make it difficult to host another tournament may be perceived as a weak argument. Although Payne has definitely made contributions to the growth of the game in other parts of the world, along with the excellent Drive, Chip and Putt contest, a Women’s Masters would be the moral thing to do.

Creamer also counters Payne’s argument about prep work for the Masters by bringing up the current scenario with Pinehurst No. 2. Of note, the course has hosted the US Open, plus the US Women’s Open in consecutive weeks. Taking into account the success involved with staging consecutive majors, it can be done elsewhere. Perhaps Payne could compromise and make the Women’s Masters a bi-annual event, thus reducing any potential strain that could be caused to Augusta National by having it yearly.

As women’s sports continues to grow, the impact of Augusta would only add to the momentum of the female game. Considering that the Masters always generates high ratings, it would certainly carry over to a women’s edition. The women of the LPGA are doing just as much to generate interest in the game as their counterparts in the PGA.

This is definitely one area where top-ranked members of the PGA could speak up on the topic. For an individual like the legendary Tiger Woods, who was once discriminated against at golf clubs because of his skin color, this should definitely be a cause for him to champion. Even if some are afraid to “rock the boat”, there are enough members of the Senior PGA tour who have done enough for the game, that they can speak without reproach. If Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus supported Creamer, it would carry significant weight.

Although the LPGA could attempt to sway sponsors of the Masters, or even try to lobby the state government of Georgia, the important aspect is that Creamer has gotten the conversation started. Hopefully, it will be a conversation that builds momentum as the day that female golfers can wear the green jacket, the Masters shall truly be an event worthy of prestige.