She’s talked about it for as long as our staff can remember. It was often part of the many interviews she gave through the years – Brooke Henderson dreamed of becoming a member of the LPGA.
Today, at age 17, she got her wish.
After a virtuoso performance this past weekend that earned her an LPGA victory at the Cambia Portland Classic, the possibility of becoming a member of the tour as a non-member winner (Category 7 on the tour’s priority list) came into play.
The only problem? She was still 25 days short of her 18th birthday, a condition of tour membership. She would need to petition LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan to waive that condition and he would need to accept that.
News of part one came this morning. The most critical part, the decision from Whan, came this afternoon.
“After reviewing Brooke Henderson’s petition, I have granted her LPGA Tour membership beginning immediately, ” said Whan is a statement released by the LPGA. “Brooke will compete out of Category 7 on the 2015 LPGA Priority List for the remainder of this season and also for the 2016 season. Category 7 is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the current or previous calendar year. Brooke truly earned her card, and we are looking forward to Brooke joining our Tour and our family. She is a special player and a wonderful person.”
The key phrase in this statement was “she earned it.” Whan has been clear that the tour has standards that had been set and that Henderson would need to meet those specifically in order to be considered for membership.
That sparked hand-wringing by many who thought Henderson’s spectacular play in majors and other events as a non-member should have the LPGA running to her door to hand her the keys to the empire. Instead they stuck to the policies they created, forcing Henderson to meet an established standard. While others complained her voice was not among them.
The young Canadian says it is a little more gratifying to have earned her status. “Last year when my petition was denied and I didn’t get to play qualifying school and have a chance for my card I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Henderson on Monday. “You know it really made me realize what I really wanted in life, what I really desired and it made me work really, really hard. It made me focus and be more determined…this ways feels a lot better knowing that I deserve to be out here.”
Getting the good news as she prepared to play Canada’s National Open Championship for Women also makes for ideal timing.
“Since I was a little girl in Smiths Falls, Ontario, my dream has been to play on the LPGA Tour. I am so grateful for the opportunity to join the Tour as a member and play alongside so many of my role model,” said Henderson. “Realizing this dream here at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in my native Canada is even more amazing and I am so proud to be an ambassador for golf in this amazing country. I would like to thank Commissioner Mike Whan, the LPGA Tour staff, and all my sponsors, fans, friends and my amazing family for all the support I have received.”
Already set to play this week in Vancouver, and the Evian Championship (which starts on her 18th birthday, September 10th) she will now also head to Alabama next week to play in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.
The only downside is that as far as official money is concerned, Brooke starts back at square one. The money she already won will spend and her win is official, but the remainder of 2015 will be considered her rookie season.
The balance of the tour will include five stops in Asia, one in Mexico, and the tour finale – the CME Group Tour Championship, for which is she qualified with her win. As a Category 7 player she will have to keep playing well to get into the fields in Asia.
Of course, what really counts for Brooke is that she is now an official member of the LPGA Tour, the very first from Eastern Ontario. While Smiths Falls always comes first, she is finally “home” on the LPGA, as she has always wanted.