Henderson Takes Charge, Wins Lotte Championship

Brooke Henderson Refuses to Crack Before Pursuing Field

My father used to tell us when nervy events approached that life doesn’t care if we’re afraid and that it’s coming anyway. I didn’t always master that lesson very well, but Canadian Brooke Henderson surely did. She never met my father, but must have learned it somewhere else, big-time. Maybe it was on the ice, where concussions, all manner of bodily injuries and missing teeth are an ever-present possibility. I was looking forward to leaving the high drama of the Masters behind me for a while, and getting back to the normal excitement of tournament golf, but I guess ‘normal’ doesn’t really exist. I could not put Patrick Reed’s feat out of my mind, as Henderson fended off one heavyweight after another. To my surprise, she did Reed one better, by pulling ahead at the end and seizing the Lotte Championship without looking over her shoulder.  Crack under the pressure? Not very likely when we’re talking about Brooke Henderson.

I thought at first that there must be something abruptly inspiring about leaving a climate where winter lasts a little longer and comes back a little sooner. That must be it, it was the palm trees, ocean and tropical breezes. No, beautiful as the course at Ko Olina is on Oahu, Brooke’s been in tropical climes before. After thinking of all the alternatives, I think it was that lesson my father tried to teach. Henderson just doesn’t give any room to timidity and self-destruction. The way she handled herself in the final round totally upset my external view of her odds. Whether it is strictly provable or not, I have come to think of Inbee Park as the wrecker of dreams. If she’s within five or six, the likelihood that she will go on a birdie binge is high, and she has overtaken so many leaders at the end. I was actually sitting around thinking of how unfair it is to have victory snatched away in that manner. However, the Canadian champion thinks differently. Hanging on wasn’t the plan. A birdie-laden finish made the point moot. No one was going to catch her. She fought off Shanshan Feng, still the World Number One. She fought off the intimidating Park. Lizette Salaz was in a great spot to contend, and Azahara Munoz offered a birdie-blitz that brought her into contention out of nowhere.
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The  par 3 16th troubled Henderson on Round three, with a rare four-putt for double bogey, but not on day 4. We are told that she sent a 5-iron 191 yards to the green before a successful birdie putt. I get that the pros understand swing mechanics in a way most of us cannot, and that harnessing energy is a pillar of professional expertise. – but come on. I’m over 5’11, 182 pounds, and don’t hit a five-iron anywhere near such a distance – never did. More than that, I wouldn’t have the guts to swing a five-iron that hard. I’d go two clubs lower and cower down. Contrary to that philosophy, Henderson doesn’t lose control by applying power. Aggression is her bread and butter. While she is managing the course, she is also conquering it. Still, some scientist will have to explain it to me someday how a body that size hits a ball that far.

As the first Canadian to win the Lotte, Henderson took home $300,000, and another big step in her growing legend. The record for Canadian wins on the LPGA tour was set by Sandra Post at eight. It appears likely that the mark will be surpassed sooner than later. Henderson has earned a spot in the 2019 Diamond Resorts, and has jumped from 12th to 2nd in the Race to the CME Globe. With all of that, my favorite part of being a spectator is the manner in which she handles pressure and fear, a gift many of us have always coveted. One thing is certain. Beyond any doubt, Brooke Henderson proved my dad right.

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