It’s what she has worked for. But there is much ground yet to cover. Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ontario will carry a one stroke lead into the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
She’s won at the pro level before. In fact, she already has five professional titles to her credit. But none of those have been in a $2 million purse LPGA Tour event with a full slate of the best players in the world.
On Sunday she will attempt to become just the third player under the age of 18 to win on the LPGA Tour. The only players yet to achieve that feat are Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson. It would not be a bad group to join.
Henderson, playing on a sponsor’s exemption this week, built a lead as strong as four strokes on Saturday in San Francisco, touching 11 under par deep into the back nine. Unfortunately a couple blemishes to complete her tour of the Lake Merced course saw her lead diminish to just one.
It is the margin she will carry into Sunday when she pairs up with childhood hero Morgan Pressel and Min Seo Kwak (both at -8) for the final lap that separates her from uncommon territory.
“The last two, unfortunately I dropped two shots,” Brooke commented after signing for her third round of even par, 72. “Overall it was a great day, and I’m really happy to be where I am. If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would’ve taken it.”
In the final round there will be a lot to process for the emerging professional. It is unchartered ground for her and beyond dealing with her own game, she will be chased by some of the best players in the world. Lydia Ko (-6) and Stacey Lewis (-5) are among those looking to catch her but it is Pressel who resonates in a special way for Henderson.
“Growing up she was my biggest role model other than my sister,” says Brooke, who, like Pressel, is also an RBC Brand Ambassador “I always looked up to her. I met her probably when I was around eight years old. That was so cool. She spent a little extra time with me than the other girls, which I thought was really neat.”
The admiration, apparently, goes both ways. Asked to give her thoughts on Brooke, Pressel provided, in part, “I’ve been following her career and it’s been very, very impressive so far…”
They pair have played before. Just two years ago a 15 year-old Henderson walked the Long Island fairways of Sebonack Golf Club with the major champion winner.
“The playing with her in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2013 was an amazing experience. I made the cut for the first time on the LPGA, and she was my playing partner on the Saturday,” Brooke commented.
“Ever since then she’s been very kind to me. I’ve still always been a little nervous around her because I’ve looked up to her my whole life, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Based on the social media chatter Saturday, and undoubtedly the Golf Channel viewership, so too is the rest of Canada.
Third round leaderboard for the 2015 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic including final round tee times. (All time Pacific Standard Time)