Brooke Henderson is developing a habit of upstaging other sporting events.
A little more than a year after she distracted the nation’s attention by winning the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship as the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final was about to face-off, the 19-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., won the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich., just as the U.S. Open and its leaders were teeing off not far away in Erin, Wisc.
Henderson’s victory also took place on Father’s Day, with her father, Dave, who is also her coach, in attendance and her sister Brittany in her regular gig as her caddie.
“This morning he said ‘do it for me’, so this is definitely for him,” said Henderson on the Golf Channel broadcast immediately after her win. “He’s my coach and my best friend and a great father.”
Henderson had a dominating week, firing rounds of 61-65-67-66 to win by two shots over Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie.
Steady all day on Sunday
Starting the day one shot off the lead, Henderson was steady all day on Sunday with three birdies and no bogies on her card. Thompson missed a key birdie putt on 17, lipping out from long range.
Moments later, Henderson saved par on 18 from just over three feet that all but clinched the victory. The putt on 18 came after she made an even longer one on 16 that solidified her two-shot lead and put her in pole position playing in the second-to-last group coming home.
From the wider view, her suddenly hot putter also addressed Henderson’s issues with the flat stick all year. Some weeks she had tried as many as a half-dozen putters between competition and practice.
“That putt on 16 was really huge, especially now looking back,” she said after her victory. “It’s just really cool to make those putts under pressure.”
Henderson’s victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as she had went more than a year since her latest win, which was also her first, and to this point, lone major title.
Overall, Sunday’s win is her fourth LPGA title in a little more than two years of making regular LPGA starts. But this season had been mostly disappointment.
She had just two top-10 results in 14 starts and had not seriously contended in any tournaments, while standing 22nd on the LPGA money/points ledger. Her world ranking – once as high as second – had slipped to the mid-teens.
The uneven play comes on the LPGA Tour, where former teenage stars often settle in to be merely good, rather than great. Players such as Wie, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel, all former teenage stars, have all won major titles but are now all in their 20s without having nearly the success that was first expected of them.
An accommodating and pleasant presence, Henderson had on more than one occasion left the course without speaking to the waiting media since last year’s Olympics in Rio.
There had also been concern about Henderson consolidating her team around her to just her sister and father, since she had stopped working with her previous co-coach, Tristan Mulhally, her instructor since playing for Golf Canada’s national amateur team.
There is no better tonic than winning and Sunday’s victory will allay most, if not all, concern.
And the victory also couldn’t be better timed: the LPGA circuit now enters its “major season” starting with the Women’s PGA Championship next week, where Henderson will defend her title at Olympia Fields near Chicago beginning June 30.
In the meantime, Henderson is slated to attend media day for the 2017 CP Canadian Women’s Open at the Ottawa Hunt Club this Wednesday.
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