Brooke Henderson Is the Future of Women's Golf in Canada
Brooke Henderson isn't like her high school classmates. While many are preparing for post-secondary education, Henderson is trying to become a full-time member of the LPGA Tour.
Photo by Kathy Kmonicek-The Associated Press
A week ago Friday, the class of 2015 from Smiths Falls and District Collegiate Institute walked across the stage at its graduation ceremony.
Brooke Henderson, 17, was not in attendance.
Henderson, the Canadian golf phenom, was at a Symetra Tour event in Michigan. She finished third in her first tournament as a full-time member of the LPGA's minor-league circuit after the LPGA's commissioner accepted her petition to join (one she had to submit because she's under 18).
She is not like the rest of her classmates who graduated that day. Since January, she's been jet-setting around the world of professional golf, doing her best to earn a permanent place on the LPGA Tour. She's earned approximately $365,000 in the process.
That's not to say she didn't get her diploma. The straight-A student received it the week before her classmates at a very appropriate place: the golf course.
"I had no idea it was going to happen, but it was so cool," says Henderson. "I missed (my graduation) but that's OK, I made up for it."
Henderson and her sister Brittany were in Smiths Falls in mid-June for a charity tournament, then both played in the Canadian Women's Tour event at their home club (Brooke finished second while Brittany tied for third) before travelling to Indiana, where they played in a Symetra Tour event.
Brooke won. They then pressed on to Michigan.
"It's been a lot of fun the last couple of weeks. I've had some good finishes that I'm happy with," she explains. "I've learned a lot about myself and my game."
Henderson won't be stopping until she's a full-time member of the LPGA Tour. It's that laser-focused attitude that prompted her to pass on an opportunity to represent Canada at the upcoming Pan Am Games. Henderson, who was announced alongside Canadian golf legend Lorie Kane as the two female golf participants for the country earlier in the year, graciously accepted at the time.
As the games closed in, Henderson knew she had to concentrate on just one thing.
"The ultimate goal is to get my (LPGA) Tour card for 2016. I don't really care how I get it, I just need to get it," explains Henderson.
Jeff Thompson, Golf Canada's chief sport officer, was disappointed to lose her, but understood the reason.
"Brooke is committed to her goal of reaching the LPGA Tour and her recent play including her victory on the Symetra Tour last weekend has provided a unique opportunity that will help her achieve that goal," Thompson said in a statement.
Henderson, a long-time member of the national amateur team, is able to reach her goal in a number of ways. Either finish top ten on the end-of-year money list on the Symetra Tour, finish with the equivalent of top-40 money on the LPGA Tour (she's approximately 25th now), or win three times on the Symetra Tour.
"There's a lot of options, and I've tried to take advantage of my opportunities," she says.
Henderson, however, isn't ruling out participating in the Olympics in 2016.
"I played for Team Canada for the last four years now, so it's always an honour to wear the Maple Leaf on my shirt," she states. "I really hope to represent Canada in Rio in 2016."
With Henderson passing on the Pan Am Games, her schedule for the summer is starting to take shape.
She will play in the U.S. Women's Open and the Ricoh Women's British Open—two major championships on the LPGA Tour—and the CN Canadian Women's Open in August. Otherwise, she'll fill in the gaps with Symetra Tour events and potentially try to qualify for other LPGA Tour tournaments.
Although it sounds like a tiring adventure, it's something that Tristan Mullally—the coach of Golf Canada's women's national team—says has been necessary this year.
"I don't think anyone would look at her schedule and say it was ideal, but she's 17 and she knows what she wants to do, and how she wants to do it, so sometimes you just have to take the opportunities you get," explains Mullally.
"This year is a big learning year, and there has been a lot of success. I don't think anyone can stake a claim for Brooke's success other than her. And that's the way it should be."
Henderson was forced to withdraw from this week's Symetra Tour event after getting in to a minor car accident Wednesday. It's a week of rest she would rather not have, but it's her first real break from golf in months.
So while she preps for her second major championship appearance in four weeks, most of her fellow graduates from Smiths Falls have now begun their summer holidays.
"I think everyone is trying to plan the next few years, which is exciting," she says.
Henderson already knows what her plan is. Now, it's time to follow through on it.