When Brooke Henderson played her first LPGA Tour event at age 14, she marveled at Lydia Ko winning the Canadian Women’s Open at 15. Four years later, Henderson beat the top-ranked golfer in the world to win her first major championship.
Henderson’s victory over the weekend at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship marked a major milestone in her 18-month climb up the world rankings since turning pro. After being well over 200, she’s now No. 2 at age 18, a Canadian hero in the vein of 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir, and could soon become one of the faces of the sport.
”It’s really been an incredible journey,” Henderson said Monday on a conference call. ”This is huge momentum, for sure. Definitely a huge confidence boost. To get that world ranking up to No. 2 is kind of surreal, kind of unbelievable, but I still have that one more spot to go.”
Henderson, a native of Smiths Falls, Ontario, about an hour south of Ottawa, isn’t afraid to make reaching No. 1 in the world a personal goal and said she hopes to win another of the three majors left on the calendar this year. Her next chance is the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle in July.
She’ll be a top contender for that tournament, less than a year after her first LPGA victory of any kind at the Cambia Portland Classic. But Canadian women’s national team coach Tristan Mullally noted it’s been a continual progression for Henderson since she was in her mid-teens.
”The reason that she constantly improves is that the recipe hasn’t changed. She works on the same things,” Mullally said in a phone interview. ”When you’re as good as Brooke is, that’s where you need to be and that’s what’s going to keep you on that path.”
Henderson’s path to this point already has featured many top-10 finishes, enough success at a young age to serve as a reward and a motivator. Her path forward is even more fascinating because she hasn’t reached a prime yet.
Sandra Post, the only other Canadian to win an LPGA major back in 1968, doesn’t expect this win to be Henderson’s last but told her to ”stay healthy.” With the Rio Olympics and a full slate of tournaments ahead, Henderson and her team are conscious of that and the possibility of fatigue.
”I’m still pretty young and feeling pretty good at this point,” Henderson said. ”I know if I need to take a break I can definitely do that. Right now the plan is to play as many events as I can and hopefully get a couple more wins.”