We’ll know better Sunday evening, but a tournament that Brooke Henderson might not have played could be the one in which she realizes her dream and gains full membership on the LPGA Tour.
However, with sister Brittany receiving a sponsor exemption into the Cambia Portland Classic, the 17-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., elected to attend Monday qualifying.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise that she got the sponsor’s invite and I came out here because it is a long way to travel from home and I’m not sure if I would have made the trip,” said Henderson.
“I’m glad I’m playing, though,” she said in an understatement.
In a pro career that began just last December, Henderson is in good shape to make her dream of full-time membership on the LPGA Tour a reality. Since then, she has been illustrating in vivid colours why she should be a regular.
Coming in to Portland, she seemed certain to achieve her goal by finishing with a money total that would put her in the top 40 on the official LPGA money list, but it’s generally accepted that the process would be hastened should she win on tour, something no Canadian has managed to do since 2001.
After a 68 on Monday got her into the field, Henderson opened with rounds of 66 and 67, then opened a five-shot lead on Saturday with a bogey-free, seven-under 65 to reach 18 under and tie the 54-hole tournament scoring record.
In late April, Henderson was sitting on top of the leaderboard with a one-shot lead at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco and wound up just missing a playoff that decided it and finished third.
Since then, however, her season has included T5 finishes at two major championships and a win on the Symetra Tour. On Sunday, she’ll tee it up with Sandra Gal and Morgan Pressel, who she played the final round with in San Francisco.
“She was always and still is a big role model for me. It was interesting in San Francisco. I learned a lot about myself and my game and I think I’ve come leaps and bounds from there early in the season,” said Henderson.
“I’m just really excited to play (Sunday) and hopefully get a good number,” she added.
“Overall, I felt really good, and hopefully I’ll have similar feelings starting (Sunday). I know in San Francisco, Saturday I wasn’t feeling the nerves, and then Sunday I did. I’ll just have to be aware of that for (Sunday),” said Henderson.
With a win, Henderson would become the third player in LPGA history to win before her 18th birthday, which is next month, joining Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson. She would also become the second player in LPGA history to win after Monday qualifying.
Just as that Monday qualifier, put her in the field, what she does on Sunday could very well set her career in the direction she’s wanted since turning pro.