Brooke Henderson Young Canadian Star Statement Loud and Clear
Every young phenom that comes along in the golf world, male or female, has his or her own career personality that tags along through the first wins. Lydia Ko’s was as different from Lexi Thompson’s as it could be, and Brooke Henderson, the young woman from Smith Fall, Ontario, is equally unique.
We’ve been talking about Commissioner Whan’s rejection of Henderson’s bid for an age exemption for a while now, and as her early career unfolds, she has certainly made mincemeat out of the decision. The difference between Henderson and the case of her two colleagues, Ko and Thompson, remains unclear. Had Whan just issued too many permission slips, and thought he’d better close the door before things got out of control among the whiz kid crowd? Maybe someday, he’ll tell us.
At any rate, Whan’s decision is splattered all over the sidewalk. Brooke Henderson has made her quality clear through the past year, with a lot of top 25s and top 10s. Then, in my own hometown, I’m proud to say, Henderson won the Portland Classic. In doing so, she becomes the third to win an LPGA event under the age of eighteen. One or two differences are noteworthy, however. For starters, Brooke is Canadian, and that’s a welcome return to the old days, when Pat Fletcher won their National Open over half a century ago, and Lori Kane won an LPGA tournament in the early 21st century.
The other important difference is that Brooke Henderson didn’t just win the Portland Classic. The fact is that she took the course at Columbia Edgewater apart, and the field sporting the world’s best as well. Storming through the end of the third round, she went to sleep on Saturday night with a five-stroke lead. We figured that she might very well win the tournament if she didn’t succumb to nerves. Starting out cautiously on Sunday, she took the gloves off and finished the day with an eight-stroke victory, only matched in recent times by the margin in the 2012 British Open. Just look at the top ten names on the LPGA “great” list, and imagine beating every one of them by eight strokes – c’mon Mike, you blew it. Fess up and get this kid (at my age, everyone is a kid) a card. She’s doing all of this great stuff with a five day work week, having to spend the whole day on Monday qualifying just to stay around. Everyone else starts on Tuesday. That probably feels old. Henderson has won over half a million in the last year in Mike’s own tournaments, but she couldn’t even participate in Q school. I’m going to assume that it’s not an American versus Canadian thing, because Ko is a New Zealander, and she got her card, but it’s something weird, and I’d love to know the basis of it.
As for Henderson, who must be on top of the world this week, she gets an extra boost next week at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. It’s wonderful to inspire the fan base in Canada in a way that they have not been for a while, but there was a tinge of sadness on my part as well. In addition to my late 60s inner voice that wanted to chant “Membership now! Membership now!” I wanted to tell Brooke Henderson that she’s got a whole bunch of American support as well, starting right here. The particular personality of this early career, and of this individual, has already been a lot of fun, and very compelling. Here is a delightful newcomer to the tour, and new life’s blood to a continuing tradition that depends on it. She’s clearly a masterful golfer, and tailor made for a lot of international admiration. Besides, Canada’s a serious golfing nation, and the game isn’t a place for emphasizing borders or politics. I hope that Brooke Henderson knows that some of us down south were cheering for her just as loudly as they were up north.