I arrived home later than expected from a quick Monday morning errand only to discover via e-mail that a teleconference was in progress with Brooke Henderson, who had just tied for 10th and earned low amateur honours at the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday.
Quickly dialing the number provided, the conference was about halfway through and I had to ask the obvious question if it hadn’t been asked already and it was, I found out later.
Here is what Henderson had to say about the possibility of turning pro.
While my tardiness forced her to repeat herself, and she was quite understanding about it, she can expect to hear the same question should she continue the momentum she’s established so far this season.
Ten days earlier, Henderson had shot a final round 62 to win the Porter Cup in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
“It was definitely a huge confidence booster going into the U.S. Open, then having a tied 10 finish at an LPGA major is amazing and it was a lot of fun to be part of that,” said Henderson, who is back in Niagara Falls, this time in Canada, for a Canadian Women’s Tour event.
If she wins that, and she won a similar event two years ago in Beloeil. Que., when she was 14, the question will come up more than twice in one teleconference. It will be a regular occurrence.
What’s remarkable about Henderson, other than her physical skills on the golf course is her poise, which served her well on a beast such as Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday.
She opened with two birdies in her first five holes, but gave it back with two consecutive birdies. After the turn, she added three more birdies over four holes before a double bogey on 16 might have derailed her.
It didn’t and the 16-year-old parred the final two holes for her one-under 69.
She exhibits the same poise in the media room as she does on the golf course and she’ll need it both places going forward this summer, which promises to be a banner one for her.
The more success she has, the more the question about turning pro will pop up and it is a legitimate one. She says she’s still committed to Golf Canada’s national team program and, at least verbally, to the University of Florida collegiate program.
Things change quickly, however.
The same question dogged Lydia Ko, who was winning professional events, including back-to-back Canadian Women’s Opens, before finally breaking the news last October in a rather innovative way (below) with Israel Dagg of the All Blacks.
At that point, Ko could wait no more. The returns were too great not to go pro and she already has an LPGA win this year and is ranked third in the world. It appears history will leave no doubt that Ko made the right call.
With Henderson, we are witnessing a remarkable transformation as potential turns to reality, but she has yet to hit the plateau that Ko reached before turning pro.
Should Henderson win an LPGA Tour event, she would become the first Canadian in 13 years to do so. If it’s the CP Women’s Open, she would become the first Canadian to win on home soil since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.
Both are tall orders for anybody, just as it was for the U.S. Women’s Open winner, who caught the world’s attention as an early teen player, captured its imagination, then had it wondering what happened to her.
Michelle Wie is turning things around now with two wins, including a major, this year, but it didn’t come easily.
“She’s an amazing player and it’s great to see that she finally got the win there (Sunday) for her first major,” said Henderson.
“She just didn’t get the breaks maybe at the beginning, but I think the win (Sunday) is because of what she went through when she was younger. She learned a lot and was able to gain from it,” she added.
In other words, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger and Henderson’s momentum is definitely getting stronger. With each success, however, expectations will build and the question about turning pro will become more frequent.
She has a full summer of high-calibre events ahead of her and how she does will offer a better indication of whether she should be considering what’s being asked of her.
As she did on the golf course on Sunday, Henderson and family are showing remarkable patience and while not rushing her decision may not be immediately lucrative, it will pay off long term unless she proves, without a doubt, that it’s time.
It isn’t just yet, but that could change quickly.