Please don’t overlook Brooke
19 JUN 2019
This past weekend, Brooke Henderson set a Canadian record for most wins on the PGA or LPGA Tour. It seems like a monumental career achievement, but for the 21-year old native of Smith Falls, Ontario, it’s more like a stepping-stone to superstardom.
By Peter Mumford
That was quite a week for champions .
First, Rory McIlroy lapped the field in Hamilton for his first RBC Canadian Open title. Then a few days later, the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup after a 51-year wait. The next night, the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to capture their first NBA Championship, which led to a parade and a party that, based on recent observations, might extend well into July. This past Sunday at Pebble Beach, Gary Woodland held off Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and most of the rest of pro golf’s elite, to nab his first major, the US Open.
That’s a lot of first-time wins and a lot of excitement. Lost in the shuffle somewhere, was Canada’s very own Brooke Henderson claiming the Meijer Classic on Father’s Day for her ninth LPGA victory.
While not her first and certainly not a major, that ninth victory is significant for an altogether different reason. It establishes Brooke, at the tender age of 21, as the Canadian golfer with the most PGA or LPGA Tour wins. She surpasses Mike Weir, Sandra Post and George Knudson, who all have eight career titles to their credit.
There’s still plenty of upside to Brooke’s career and if she continues at anything close to the pace she’s on now, she’ll put up record numbers and World Golf Hall of Fame credentials by the time she’s ready to call it quits. It seems odd to be writing that now. A few years ago, I tried to refrain from making predictions that might add to the media pressure that was already building to a fever pitch after her first win at the Cambria Portland Classic as a 17-year old. She handled that like it was a foregone conclusion – winning by eight.
Then came her first major the following year. She defeated another teenage phenom, Lydia Ko, in a playoff to capture the KPMG Women’s LPGA Championship. Cool as a cucumber.
By the time last year’s CP Canadian Women’s Open rolled around, Brooke had shown numerous more times that she could handle the pressure. But she had yet to win the one that mattered most. To Canadian golfers, our national championship is like a super-major. And the fact that no Canadian had won it since Pat Fletcher in 1954, made it all the more insurmountable.
Last August, on a cool drizzly day in Regina, Brooke ended our national angst with a four-stroke victory. Again, it seemed like it was meant to be, right from the start. Steady, quiet, disciplined, nothing flashy, very Canadian.
That’s Brooke through and through.
At most tournaments, you wouldn’t likely know if she’s leading by 10 or having a bad day. She has exceptional mind control – almost the perfect temperament for a professional golfer. In many ways she reminds one of Annika Sorenstam, although Brooke smiles more.
It remains a mystery why Brooke doesn’t get broader recognition for her achievements beyond the Canadian border. The broadcast crews that follow her on televised events have nothing but praise for Brooke, both as a player and as a young woman. In addition to her innate golfing ability, she’s articulate and respectful, she engages with fans at every Tour stop, she’s attractive and has a very easy, natural way about her. She should be the poster child for the LPGA.
Of course, if one thinks of the LPGA as an American institution, that’s never going to happen. Americans are far more interested in trying to promote Lexi Thompson or one of the Korda sisters as the face of the LPGA. What they don’t or won’t realize is that the LPGA is really the only true world golf Tour and right now it’s dominated by non-Americans, most of whom are from southeast Asia.
Almost 40% of LPGA events are played outside the USA and over half of the sponsorship money that pours into Tour coffers originates from foreign corporations, most of it in Asia.
Hank Haney, instructor, author and former coach of Tiger Woods, got himself into hot water a few weeks back for making bone-headed remarks about the women’s tour and his inability to know many of the players because of their ethnic background. Despite the misogynistic and somewhat racist bias of his comments, Haney did shed some light on one ugly truth about the LPGA: Americans like him are not going to follow the LPGA unless an American woman is the headliner.
It’s ironic because that hasn’t happened in over 25 years. Starting in 1995, Sorenstam was the face of the LPGA, followed by Lorena Ochoa and then a rotating cast of Asian players. You have to go back to Nancy Lopez to find the last American superstar.
Brooke is looking very much like the heir apparent to that crown. A few more wins and another major, and she’ll be impossible to ignore, in any country or any language. One suspects that it will be one more thing she takes in stride.
Imagine that. We already know Brooke is a superstar. We’re just waiting for the rest of the world to wake up and smell the coffee.
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag.
Brooke is defending her CP Women’s Open title at Magna Golf Club in August from Thursday 22nd – Sunday 25th. Start buying tickets now and get out and show her, plus her supporters at Golf Canada and CP, just how much she is appreciated.