It didn’t seem like it at the time, but Brooke Henderson now admits that the LPGA Tour not accepting her petition for full-time membership last year may have been the best thing that could have happened to her.
“It really made me bear down and focus and become a lot more dedicated and really desire what I wanted,” she admitted on Friday after firing a five-under 67 to take a one-shot lead at the Cambia Portland Classic at 11 under.
Of course, if she hangs on to win, she will likely have her wish for full-time membership granted immediately, but another high finish would make it all but official that she will receive membership by finishing the equivalent of top 40 on the LPGA money list.
However she does it, the 17-year-old from Smiths Falls – whether motivated by that decision to turn her down, youthful enthusiasm or a fiery competitive spirit – has left no doubt that she’s ready, even if she still welcomes the support system around her.
“I have two top fives in majors, third in San Francisco and I’ve had quite a few other solid rounds – 67, 66 a couple times – and I feel really good out here. I’ve gotten to know the girls a little bit better and they’ve been really good to me for the most part,” she said.
“(Canadian player) Alena Sharp has been a huge part of my success this year I would say and being able to travel with my dad and my sister this week and Bunk (Lee), who’s been on my bag for the last two days,” said Henderson.
“I have a great support system around me, and I think that’s really helped me,” she added.
“Right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time and one tournament at a time, but I’m really looking forward to the next couple years, and hopefully this week, I can secure my card for next year and be full time on the LPGA,” she said.
As she closes in on that goal, she’s also in a good position to become the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour since 2001. Do the math and you’ll realize that Henderson was three years old when that happened.
“That would be really good, but I’m still a long way from that and I realize that and I have to go low and shoot some good numbers, too,” she said.
Henderson took the 36-hole lead for the third time this season when she sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on her final hole of the day after making the turn at one under. At that point the putts didn’t seem to be dropping.
“I gave myself a lot of great opportunities and just rubbed some edges, but I was happy with one under because it was raining and there was a couple other different conditions than yesterday,” she said.
“Then the back nine, especially the last couple holes, I made a lot of birdies and really started to make my climb, which was exciting, and it’s nice to finish with a birdie there on 18, or the ninth hole,” said Henderson, who will draw on her success this season going into the weekend in Portland.
“Just to stay within myself and play my own game,” she said.
“Playing as an amateur I was used to a lot of people, a lot of media and television and stuff like that, but it’s a little bit different on the LPGA Tour and I think that’s something that I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with this year,” added Henderson.
“I think if I can just stay patient and play my own game and not focus on outside factors, I think good things will happen,” she said.