Starting her final day of play at the LPGA Coates Golf Championship presented by R&L Carriers, Brooke Henderson did not exactly have victory on her mind. She was just three strokes off the lead but some of the world’s top players were ahead of her. Twenty-seven holes later she was more than pleased to still have an opportunity to win on the Tour for the 2nd time. But it was not to be.
Sitting at 4 under par to start the day at the weather-hampered event in Ocala, Florida, the 18 year-old Canadian star quickly put herself into contention with a score of 31 to finish her third round. It included a critical eagle on the par-five, 18th hole.
In her final lap of the back nine at the Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, things would not be as favourable. She would score 6 strokes higher than in the third round and added a 72 to her opening rounds of 70,70, and 67.
That left her sitting in the scoring area behind the 18th with the clubhouse lead at -9, knowing she could have been better, and with her fate in other player’s hands. It ultimately came down to Korea’s Ha Na Jang. She was the only one who could beat Henderson and she was at -10 with just the final hole to play.
It was a nervous time for many Canadian fans who looked on, be it live or at home, but Brooke, in her usual fashion, was apparently unfazed.
“I mean, it wasn’t anything too stressful or anything like that,” said the Smiths Falls, Ontario golfer. “I knew whatever was going to happen, that was just the way it was going to be, and she played great, and to finish off the last hole the way she did was pretty cool to see.”
The capper for Jang was a five foot birdie putt that boosted her to 11 under par and gave her her first LPGA Tour win.
Henderson would have to settle for a a solo second place finish worth (USD) $137,861. Not ideal but no more than a few small errors on the back nine kept her from the big prize.
“Well, starting the day, if I would have finished second, I would have been very happy,” Henderson shared after play was complete. “I had a great round this morning on my back nine, 5-under, and finished off with an eagle, so it was definitely good momentum going into the final round, and I had it going. I was 2-under for the day at one point, and it was feeling pretty good. A couple putts on the back nine kind of cost me, but overall it was a good day, and I’m right in position where I want to be.”
That “position” reference is a familiar one, dating back to not long ago and Henderson’s amateur days. Then she was chasing the #1 ranking in the world for amateurs, something she achieved on her 17th birthday. Now, barely more than a year later, she is after top spot in the Rolex World Rankings and with her start to the 2016 season, her first as a full-time LPGA member, she is getting her closer to it. This week she is projected to move to #11 in the standings, up from the #17 spot she previously held.
She’ll carry that momentum to Australia where she will make her next tournament appearances. That will be at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open (starting Feb 18th) followed by the LET’s RACV Ladies Masters. She received an exemption to that Ladies’ European Tour event just two weeks ago.
To play the LET event Brooke will skip the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament but plans to rejoin the LPGA on their Asian swing in Singapore.
A familiar face will also make the journey to the southern hemisphere with Brooke. After some visa issues that prevented her from caddying this week, older sister and Symetra Tour member, Brittany, will be back on the bag.