Decades from now, when people aren’t so concerned about her youth, Brooke Henderson can look back at her first year as a professional and see a lot of things that will remain fresh in her mind despite the passage of time.
As a 17-year-old, there would be, obviously, her first win at a LPGA event in Portland and a pair of T5 finishes in 2015 majors, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open, but her second LPGA event as a professional will be seen as the one where she got it all going.
When she arrived at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco a year ago, Henderson was ranked 207th in the world.
“Last year, it was really my breakthrough moment on the LPGA Tour,” said Henderson, who has vaulted exactly 200 spots up the world rankings since then.
It began with a two-under 70 on Thursday that left her tied for ninth, three shots behind leader Lydia Ko. On Friday, she was leading, courtesy of a tournament record seven-under 65 that gave her a two-shot lead.
“That gave me a lot of confidence going into the weekend. I was a little disappointed with my finish, as I had the lead going into the final two rounds,” said Henderson, who had a couple of late bogeys and shot an even par 72 on Saturday to hold a one-shot lead going into the final round.
A final round, two-over 74 left her third, one shot out of a playoff between Ko and Morgan Pressel. For somebody looking for a win that would have secured LPGA membership at the time, Henderson looks back a year later with positive attitude.
“Third place, and the next week, I was able to Monday qualify and back it up with a T13, so this was definitely a big starting point for me,” she said.
Actually, the Monday qualifer for the North Texas Shootout was the day after the Swinging Skirts wrapped up, although many critics felt Henderson shouldn’t have to qualify, given her T3 finish in San Francisco.
The Monday qualifier near Dallas turned into a Tuesday qualifier as Henderson only made it to the 14th tee when play was called due to weather. She eventually sunk a 10-foot birdies putt on the second hole of a playoff to take the final spot in qualifying.
Now, she’s back in San Francisco, hoping the magic of last year continues, allowing her to vault to the next level of her outstanding career thus far on a Lake Merced golf course that definitely suits her eye.
“I love this golf course. I think it’s definitely a ball-striker’s course. You have to hit it straight and pretty long off the tee, which I think really suits my game well.” said Henderson.
“Last year, I finished well here. Hopefully, I can keep some of those secrets and keep some of those things that I learned last year and have a good week again this year,” she added.
There’s no reason that her second LPGA victory, her first as a full-fledged member, can’t happen, with seven consecutive LPGA top-10 finishes coming in.
“I’m playing really well and doing a lot of really awesome things, really consistent with seven top-10s on the LPGA Tour. If you include a European Tour event I played, I’ve had eight straight in a row,” she said.
“A lot of good things happening. I think I just have to stay patient and hopefully get off to a fast start this week,” said Henderson.
Those seven LPGA top-10s are the highest on tour this year. She’s also fourth in scoring average (69.656) and second in birdies (139). Those are all numbers that erase the number that many focus on – her 18 years of age.