The way Brooke Henderson’s career is shaping up, she’s rapidly turning into one of the women who made her star struck not that long ago when she first began playing LPGA Tour events as an amateur.
“My first (LPGA) event was the Canadian Open when I was 14 and that was the first time I was inside the ropes, inside the clubhouse, seeing girls on the range hitting beside me and in the locker room. All of it, I was really star struck. I unfortunately missed the cut,” said Henderson, 18.
“Then my next opportunity to play on the LPGA Tour was the U.S. Women’s Open, when I was 15. I didn’t really want to make the same mistake. It was hard for me. I played with Morgan Pressel, a girl I grew up watching and adoring and wanted to be like,” she added.
“I played with her at the third round in the U.S. Women’s Open, and again, that was just kind of a dream come true at that point,” she said.
“Just every time out here, I kind of have to pinch myself and kind of realize that I’m playing against the best in the world and I’m competing and I’m getting a chance to do a lot of things that people only wish that they could do in their lifetime,” said Henderson.
If she looks down the line on the driving range this week at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., she may spot a few players she’s seeing for the first time pinching themselves as they look Henderson’s way as she prepares for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Henderson comes into this week as the last player to win a major and the last player to win a LPGA event, that coming at last week’s Portland Cambia Classic, where she successfully defended the title she won in 2015, her first tour victory.
When she tees it up on Thursday at CordeValle, it will be in a marquee group that also includes Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko, the woman Henderson beat in a playoff to win the Women’s PGA Championship and the one who holds the world No. 1 ranking Henderson wants.
“Lydia Ko is amazing. She’s an inspiration to all of us girls out here and I think everyone in the world, basically. She’s done amazing things in her career and she’s only a couple months older than I am, so I think everybody looks up to her and thinks she’s an inspiration,” said Henderson.
“We’re just trying to kind of chase after her and she showed us a lot of things that are possible, so we’re just trying to chase after our own dreams,” she added.
“She’ll always have a lot of respect from me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat her. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to go out there and have four solid rounds of golf,” said Henderson.
“I hope we do have a lot of playoffs together for major championship wins, like we did a couple of weeks ago. That means I’m playing really well and that means she’s playing really well, so that’s what I’m kind of hoping for,” she said.
“I think we both play a little bit different games. We definitely have different strengths, I would say, but overall, she’s an all-around player and for me to get in a position, I’m still a long way from taking that No. 1 spot over, but I’m getting closer every single week,” said Henderson.
Just as it was in last week’s win in Portland, it will be a grind as Henderson inches closer to that No. 1 title and it will require patience.
“I’m just trying to focus on the little things that I know will make me better, working on short game, working on a little more consistency and a little bit more yardage off the tee,” said Henderson.
“I think if I can just kind of continue to chip away at those things and finish well on the weekends and hopefully, get a few more tournament wins, a few more tournament top-10s, and just kind of climb my way closer to her,” she added.
“She’s not going anywhere. She’s an amazing player and has an awesome mental attitude. I’m just trying to work on the little things in my game to get a little bit better,” said Henderson.
Another major championship would go a long way towards that goal, but patience dictates that she can’t look that far into the future at CordeValle.
Henderson says she comes in with the confidence of having won a major and three LPGA titles overall. Last year, she tied for fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open and that came before earning full LPGA membership.
“That doesn’t really mean anything when I tee it up on Thursday. I have to have two solid rounds to make the cut and then to climb up the leaderboard on the weekend,” said Henderson.
“I’m really excited for this week, I think it’s an amazing opportunity and possibly a chance to do something special like I did at KPMG, but first things first. I need to hit fairways and I need to hit greens and I need to get off to a fast start on Thursday,” she said.
CordeValle will be played at 6,752 yards and has several reachable par fives, but unpredictable wind could become a factor on a golf course that has a European feel to it, even with it located in San Martin, Calif.
“it does require strategy. There’s lots of opportunities to make birdies and lots of opportunities just to make par and move on, so I’m hoping to do that,” said Henderson.
“I think the back nine plays a lot tougher than the front nine. I think that’s where a lot of things might change, especially on Sunday afternoon,” she added.
“I really love the par fives around here. I can get close to them or reach a lot of them in two, which is something that I like to think is an advantage over most of the field that I have,” she said.
“I think this course sets up really well for my game. You’ve just got to hit it in the right spots and know where to miss it and then, just make lots of birdies,” said Henderson.
To hear what Sandra Post has to say on the golf course, click here.