Golf is the fairest sport. The better you play the more you are rewarded.
Without being a member of any tour this year 17 year-old pro Brooke Henderson is keenly aware that she needs to play well if she is to get the most from a season of wandering.
It’s worked so far. She’s played well on the SunCoast, Symetra, and even the LPGA Tour when she made an appearance in January.
She helped her cause greatly on Friday with a Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic tournament record score of 65 (-7) at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, California. She is playing the event this week on a sponsor’s invite,
Her round pushed her into a two stroke lead at -9 by the time she left the golf course. It is a head start she will carry into the third round.
Of course winning would put a good amount of cash in her pocket but one thing it will not guarantee is her schedule for the rest of the season. A win on the LPGA Tour would normally bring with it an exemption for the rest of the season and the next year to follow, and it does, but things would not be as simple for Brooke.
Being under the age of 18 (the tour Minimum) Brooke would need further consideration to be able to take advantage of a winner’s exemption for a non-member.
According to Chief Tour Operations Officer Heather Daly-Donofrio. “If she wants to be considered for LPGA membership, she would need to petition the LPGA Commissioner. The decision/timing to approve or not approve would be up to the Commissioner in his sole discretion.”
So if Brooke decided she wanted to play immediately as a full time member she would need to the blessing of Commissioner Mike Whan.
There might be more than a few things to think about come Sunday, but that’s a long 36 holes from now.
We’ll have more perspective on the round from Brooke after she speaks in the media room. (Interview now posted below)
Brooke’s Interview Post Round
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Happy to be here in the media center with Brooke Henderson after a 7‑under, 65. Clubhouse leader right now. Tournament record was 66; you now own it. How does that feel?
BROOKE HENDERSON: It’s pretty cool. This golf course is tough, and the conditions are even tougher.
My back nine the greens really started to firm up and got a little bit faster. Really got to be careful where you place it on the greens.
I’ve really been focusing on that the last couple days. I was able to do so a good job and then capitalize on my opportunities.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. As we were talking out behind the green, you are arguably today the best 17 year old in the world. Curious if this grind of being out here and playing professionally week in and week out, the travel, all the things that take place outside the ropes, is that surprising you in any way, and how are adapting?
BROOKE HENDERSON: It’s definitely a big adjustment from amateur. Even the last couple years playing on the Canada’s National team. We played a lot of international events and we traveled a lot, but being professional I’m traveling even more.
For me I’m not on a steady tour, sort of a mixture of Mini Tour, Symetra, and LPGA. So when I get the chance to come out here and play, I’m really happy to do that. It’s a great opportunity for me, so I really got to be able to capitalize when I do get those opportunities.
Turning professional, I’m really glad I did. I think it’s the right move for me at this time. I can always go back to college if I see I need to.
You know, I’m really loving where I am right now, and it’s awesome to wake up every day and do something I love.
Q. Clearly you belong inside the ropes with a two‑shot lead in this event. There will be players and have been players in the past that say 17 is just too young to be out here. How do you answer that?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I think I’m ready. Yeah, 17 is young. As you’ve seen with Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson and even Jessica Korda, there are a lot of great names that have been able to do it.
I’m hoping that I’m one of them.
Q. And you and your sister both finished runner‑up on the Symetra Tour Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. What that was that like.
LYDIA KO: It was awesome. It’s sort of funny. 144 players and we both finished second.
It was a great week. She led almost the entire way and I was nowhere to be found until the last day and made a few putts down the stretch. She walked off the 18th green and was like, How did you do? And I’m like, We tied. She was not too happy about it, but I was.
Q. She’s been on your bag; what that been like, that sort of brain trust?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I love when she’s on my bag. She’s one of my best friends and she knows my game just as well as I do.
Same goes for when I caddie for her. Her opinion means a lot to me. Just being able to lean on someone I think is very important.
Here this week is a good family friend, Bunk Lee (phonetic), and he’s been doing a great job on the bag this week.
Q. What about the eagle? Describe that a little bit.
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, it was good. I hit my tee shot right where I wanted to, which was nice. That tee shot can be a little bit tricky with the bunkers on the right and the trees overhanging on the left.
I was able to hit it in a good spot, and then hit my 3‑wood really well to run it up on the green. It was 15 feet, which was nice.
In my I was like, Make sure you get the birdie; leave it around the hole, but definitely give it a chance to go in. It did.
Q. People talk about how tough the courses, but here you are 65. What’s the key to negotiating around these fairways and greens to help you score?
BROOKE HENDERSON: This is a very tough course. I was able to play here three years ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. That really helped, seeing the course before I came here.
I think it’s very important to pay attention to the course conditions, because there’s changing very quickly. From this morning until now it’s a huge difference. I think all the players are aware of this and I think they’re all paying attention to it.
I was able to stay in a rhythm today. I got into it early, and I was able stay there all day, which was nice.
Q. What was the last tournament you led and how did you handle that?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I’m actually not too sure. (Laughter.)
Last couple tournaments I’ve been sort of coming up from behind.
Couple weeks ago I shot 64 in the last round to win. Before that I’m not too sure.
In my amateur career I loved when I had the lead, and I just want to continue to build it. This thing is far from over. There are tons of great players out there. The day is not even over yet.
I’m excited for the position I’m in and really excited for the next couple days.
Q. Bunk said he wasn’t aware you were leading. Were you aware? You watch the boards?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I looked here and there just to check it out. But I can’t focus on that.
I was playing my own game and trying to make as many birdies as I could and hit it in the right positions and make smart plays.
Q. I don’t know if anybody realized how long you are. Have you always been one of the longer players?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, definitely in my amateur career I was one of the longer hitters. Then in the Bahamas I think I was 18th in driving distance. That was the last time I was playing against the LPGA players.
Definitely that’s a big key to my game is getting the ball out there.
Then ball‑striking is probably my biggest strength. If those two things are going well like they were today, then it’s all good.
Q. Seems like you’re very poised for your age. Will that be a challenge tomorrow if you’re in the final groups on a Saturday at an LPGA event?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Definitely be a new experience. First final group or near the final group.
It’s really exciting, and looking forward to being able to learn from it and see what happens.