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.

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.