Illustration by Theo Lamar
Canadian pro golfer Brooke Henderson on achieving her first LPGA tour win at the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015, becoming the tour’s third-youngest member to win, and the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour in 14 years.
Four years ago, I was 17 years old playing on the LPGA Tour with no status. That meant that I had to go to Monday qualifiers and try to get an exemption to the event. I competed against some 30 girls for two spots to get into the tournament field, and won. After practicing that week, I teed up on Thursday wanting to make cut. I went really low the first two rounds, and saw that I had real potential going into that weekend. Everything just fell my way: I got a lot of great breaks, playing probably the best golf I’d ever played and mentally I wanted it so badly that nothing was going to get in my way.
On Sunday, my game plan was to play smart and separate myself from the field. Through the first five holes, I was around even par. I finally said to myself, I have to do something here. Then I started to make a couple birdies, and take the lead on my own. At hole 17, I just made birdie—I glanced at the scoreboard and realized that I had a nine-shot lead. I thought, Okay, as long I don’t do anything really stupid on this next hole, this tournament is mine. Knowing you’re about to win it all is a feeling I’ll never forget.
Earlier that season, I was in the lead going into the final round at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco. I was playing with Morgan Pressel, one of my biggest role models growing up. I wasn’t as focused, and [I was] a bit distracted because I admired her so much. I couldn’t get the job done—I ended up finishing third that weekend, which was heart-wrenching. From that point on, I realized that if I got in that position again, I knew what I had to do.
When I teed up on the final hole, it was a little right hit in the bunker, so I was smart about it. I was trying to focus on what I could do. I tried to block out any thoughts that took me away from that moment. Morgan was in the final group with me that day, so I was motivated to prove to her—and everyone else—that I could win. I chipped out, hit a nine, and ended up on the green and two-putted for bogey. I still won by eight shots.
When that final putt went in, the crowd was cheering me on and my family and friends ran out and drenched me with champagne. And when I was finally able to hoist that trophy, I experienced a deep sense of gratitude. I think it was pretty special for the whole country. Sometimes it’s really hard to believe when great moments like that happen to you. All of my training and hard work was realized in that moment, winning for God, my family, and Canada. It gave me a lot of confidence and momentum moving forward. Gaining my LPGA tour status meant that I could play with the best in the world every single week. I was no longer fighting to win qualifiers or begging executives to get into tournaments—I made it in on my own. And receiving that winner’s cheque was pretty awesome, too.
Winning that tournament proved, not only to everyone else, but to myself, that I was good enough.