Brooke Henderson Turning Pro – Celebrating Up North
Although one doesn’t think of Canadians behaving in quite the same way one might expect of an Italian or Spaniard, Canada knows how to celebrate with the best of them – a few Winter Olympics medal ceremonies over the years spring to mind. This week, Canadian golf devotees have something to celebrate, the beginning of Brooke Henderson’s professional career. Henderson, out of Smith Falls, Ontario, is the real deal, and everyone knows it, except, perhaps, the LPGA committee who denied her request for an age waiver to Q School. Granted, she didn’t start off as fast as Lydia Ko or Yani Tseng, but who has? It puzzles me why no one seems to be asking why Brooke has to wait a little longer…but oh well, we’re celebrating. I won’t dampen the Christmas spirit any further.
Brooke Henderson’s trajectory to the pros isn’t a big surprise. It’s not like we didn’t see it coming. At the first World’s Junior Golf Championship in Toronto, everyone was crowding around third-place finisher Brooke Henderson to get a photo with her – they saw it coming, no doubt. Better to get your picture taken with the champ now, than later when it’s more difficult.
Henderson announced this week that she would sign with International Management Group and Ping Equipment, a pretty impressive array of sponsorship for a rookie season. She had a lot of options, including a collegiate career at Florida State University, but she let the deadline for the letter of intent pass, presumably after hearing of the IMG and Ping deal.
Brook Henderson wants to go pro. She wants to play against the best in the world, which indicates that she understands that one day, she will probably be one of them. And why not, after fifty amateur wins, runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, a Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, medaling as an individual in Japan, and four of four cuts made in her first outings with the LPGA. Signs of a sure winner don’t usually come as victories in the first years with the LPGA, but they very often show themselves in the number and percentage of cuts made.
So, the LPGA powers-that-be have put Brooke Henderson on the pause button, but not for long. She can play in six events this year on sponsors’ exemptions, she could choose to play a season of Monday qualification rounds, and wait to see what happens, or she could head for Europe and see how things go on the other continent.
I still think that the LPGA might have blown it on the age waiver question. Not every granted request has been based upon past performance alone. Michelle Wie’s case involved a lot of conjecture as to how she would do. Her first win came some years later. Maybe the LPGA fears that if they allow Brooke Henderson, too many other phenoms might rush the gates. This suggests to me that they might as well just lower the age requirements, if that many wunderkinds are set to explode on the tours. Better that than to penalize a worthy candidate.
As a first-rate young golfer poised to start, I guess that they have to put you somewhere in the rankings. Apparently, Henderson will begin at the #223 spot in the world ratings. I’d bet a whole lot of money she won’t stay there, even through the first few weeks.
For today, though, it’s all about celebrating new beginnings, and for us, the arrival of a new name to follow on the leaderboards and money lists. I suspect we’ll see quite a bit of Brooke Henderson in the coming years.