Gritty, determined. They are popular terms when it comes to professional sports, but Brooke Henderson exudes them. Better yet, she demonstrates them time and time again. It is one sign that shows her true character.
Ten years ago, at age 10 and not happy with her game after a junior win (I think she still shot 72) she spent every moment between the time she hoisted the trophy to when her grandparents picked her up drilling putt after putt on the practice green. As I recall, days later she won another tournament, sinking some crucial putts in the process.
Some things don’t change.
On Saturday after a third round on Friday at the Lotte Championship presented by Hershey where the number of putts (35) almost outweighed her full game shots (38) and where she watched a five shot lead nearly evaporate, Brooke put on her game face at Ko Olina.
The result, you guessed it, a win for the 20 year-old pro from Smiths Falls, Ontario. That makes six trophies on the circuit and a title earned in each of the last four years. That’s heady stuff considering it took Sandra Post an entire career to earn eight LPGA wins and set the high water mark for Canadian women.
While the putter can be an up and down affair for Brooke, the ball-striking she exhibits off the tee and into the greens continues to be her strength and that separated her from a field of major champions nipping at her heels in Hawaii as gusty conditions laid waste to the contenders.
Through it Brooke posted a final round 69 (-3) and along with her opening rounds of 68,66, and 73, completed play at -12, four better than second place finisher, Azahara Munoz of Spain.
After earning the trophy, Henderson admitted that the win was one that weighed on her mentally, given the state of her putting and the conditions on the blustery final day.
“The wind conditions were incredible; it was so windy every single day and I think Britt and I did such an amazing job of adjusting to it and calculating yardages.”
Also motivating Henderson was the recent win by Pernilla Lindberg at the ANA Inspiration where the journey-women earned a major title.
“Watching Pernilla Linberg win her first major, I guess two weeks ago now, it was actually a lot of motivation and really inspired me. I watched the playoff and the grit and determination she had and I was like ‘I can do that too’ so I kind of owe a lot to her this week.”
Of course, that is easy to say but when the time came, after a turbulent third round and glimpses of trouble with a few missed short putts early in the last round, Brooke dug in.
“I just had to overcome that,” she shared on the subject. “Fortunately I was able to do that. There were a couple times where I was a little bit shaky with it but I remembered all the great putting I did the first two days. Just tried to be calm, be relaxed and just see the line and hit it there. I made quite a few putts coming in so I’m happy.”
“I hit it great this week, with all the wind and everything. I feel like all year my ball-striking has been really awesome, it’s just kind of my putting that I’ve been working on and you know, this week it might have been my best but I still won. So, it’s good,” she added with a laugh and big smile.
“My 6th win on tour, I’m so happy, this is really another dream come true.”
Now with a win under her belt in her 8th start of the season and moving to #2 in the CME Race to the Globe, Brooke says she would love to win a few more times this season but, at the same time, understands the depth of the field she faces. “It’s extremely tough every single week. There are so many talented players and I’m just happy that I’m one of them and hopefully I can contend a little bit more.”
In winning Brooke not only acknowledged her sister’s contribution but took the time on Golf Channel to pay tribute to an important subject back in her home country. All week the Canadian players, at the prompting of Alena Sharp’s caddy, Sarah Bowman, had been wearing green and gold ribbons to honour the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey club and accident that took 16 of their lives and injured 13 more on April 6th.
“There has also been that really bad accident that happened a couple weeks ago, I guess last week, in Saskatchewan. I just tried to stay strong for them, and I would like to dedicate this win to them as well. She added later, “I just wanted to show them we’re here for them and supporting them.”
And with that, alongside the personal fortitude she shows in her play on the golf course, Brooke Henderson also revealed another aspect of her character and why she will continue to be a popular figure in Canadian sports.
Three other Canadians made the cut at the Lotte Championship.
Alena Sharp tied for 44th while Maude-Aimee Leblanc and Brittany Marchand were part of a tie for 50th place.
The LPGA TOUR now heads to Los Angeles next week for the playing of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.