Written By: Brooke Henderson
It was one year ago that 21-year-old Brooke Henderson claimed history with her ninth career title at the Meijer LPGA Classic. At the end of 2019, Brooke Henderson took a moment to reflect on her record-breaking victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic earlier that summer.
In sports, and especially in golf, it is all about numbers. I pay careful attention to how far I’m hitting my drives and how far I want to hit particular shots. You’ve probably seen Brit and I pacing off my putts on the LPGA Tour, too – I’m trying to get a feel for the distance, the number.
Numbers have always played an important role in my career. ‘17’ is an important number for me, since that’s how old I was when I got my LPGA Tour card. But the number ‘9’ was an important one for me too, up until last year.
No Canadian had ever won that many LPGA or PGA Tour events before, until I did
Looking back on that special week at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, it’s hard to believe the names that were chasing me – like Nasa Hataoka, Lexi Thompson, Nelly Korda, Shanshan Feng, and even my childhood role model Morgan Pressel – and how I managed to come away with a win.
It was such a cool moment in my life, and like so many big moments, it’s the little details I remember so well.
For a Sunday in June, it was cooler than I was expecting. I had on a grey sweater, but Brit wore shorts. I was nervous because I definitely wanted this one. The Brooke Brigade, I saw, was out – I remember seeing lots of red shirts since Grand Rapids isn’t that far from Canada.
It was Father’s Day, too. My Dad is my coach and my best friend, and it was such an honour to win with my family right there beside me.
But before I talk about that Sunday in Michigan, you should probably know a little more about how I got there.
As most people know, I played hockey growing up and I was the goalie. A lot of times games would be riding on me. With golf, I knew I would lose more than I won, so as a junior I was trying to use each tournament to get better and push myself. If I played well, the wins would come.
I picked up golf as a way to spend even more time with Brit. Now we are in lockstep travelling the world together, which is such a great feeling.
I remember the first time I ever beat Brit was at a Future Links event at Rideau View, a club in Ottawa. I would use each tournament as a stepping-stone for more and more success, and when I finally topped Brit, in a tournament no less, it was a turning point for me.
I thik I was 11 or 12 when I first beat Brit, but fast-forward a few years and I had a big decision to make, because growing up I had always wanted to go to the University of Florida and be a Gator. I even had some of their school’s stuff in my bedroom. When it came time to make my decision, I had a lot of conversations with important people in my life. I knew that I was competing and winning against the best amateur golfers then, so ultimately I decided that turning professional was the best decision for me.
After turning professional, I still didn’t have status on the LPGA Tour. I qualified for the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015, but I had no idea the week was going to turn out the way it did – I won by eight! I’ve celebrated my wins in all different ways, but that first win’s celebration was the most special, since it was win number one.
Usually after a win I’ll do a bunch of interviews and get the trophy, but then it’s time to travel to the next tournament. Even after my win at the Meijer Classic this year I can’t help but laugh, because my family and I drove immediately to the ferry that was going to take us across Lake Michigan to the next tournament.
That first win, though, came right before the CP Women’s Open in Vancouver. Although we had to pack up right afterwards, I got to celebrate my first win with family and friends in Canada. And I got my LPGA Tour card the following Tuesday, when I was just 17.
Fast-forward to 2016, when I won a major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, because that was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career.
Some players haven’t won a major before so every time there is a major event, I hear people say, ‘Oh, when will they win? They haven’t won a major yet.” So I was happy to get a major win out of the way early in my career.
On the LPGA Tour we have our five majors, but to me there’s really six, since I count the CP Women’s Open just as important. That was win number seven for me in Regina in 2018, and it’s a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life (including the room-service chocolate cake Brit and I shared after that victory)
The year before in Ottawa was a huge event for me, even though I didn’t win. To finish 12th and to shoot the course record on Saturday was big (after making the cut right on the number) because I could handle the pressure and perform really well under it.
When they announced on the first tee this year at Magna Golf Club that I was the 2018 winner and defending champion, all the pressure for that event was gone. It was a lot more fun to play in front of the fans. I knew I could do it, and they knew I could too.
The CP Women’s Open comes later in the season but after that victory I felt like I could do anything for a couple weeks. I sort of felt invincible. It was a really cool feeling.
After my win in Canada I knew I wanted to get wins number eight and nine out of the way as quickly as possible. They had a little bit extra importance to them.
People ask me all the time what my goals are for the year ahead, and talking about keeping my two-win-per-season streak alive is the one that makes me smile the most. Of course, I’d love to win more than twice in a year but that’s been a nice goal to work towards over the last few seasons. After lifting the trophy in Regina, I knew any tournament I played in next could be win number eight and and I would tie the record held by Mike Weir, Sandra Post, and George Knudson.
I’ve never actually met Mike Weir before! We’ve talked on the phone and I’ve read stories or seen posts on social media from him that said not only was he cheering for me to tie the record, but break it as well. That was a real honour to see.
Congrats @BrookeHenderson 9th win at such a young age just awesome! Keep it rolling 👍🏻
— Mike Weir (@mweirsy) June 16, 2019
Sandra and I have met a couple of times and the first time was at the ANA Inspiration when I was 16. It was my first time there and I was in the clubhouse and she came over to talk to me and gave me some advice on how to play the course. She would know: she won there when she was just 19, which is amazing.
Sandra and Mike are legends! Growing up in Canada you hear their names a lot and you know they’ve done so much in the sport, and really, they’ve done so much for all of Canada.
To have them cheering for me that gave me some extra confidence. For a while, just being mentioned in the same sentence as the three of them was really an incredible and kind of surreal feeling for me.
Going into the LOTTE Championship last year, I didn’t expect to defend my title there to be honest. I wanted to put four solid rounds together, and I ended up getting some breaks that went in my favour and I notched my eighth LPGA Tour title, by four shots.
The week after my eighth win I finished T10 and then I had a bit of a wake up call – I missed the cut. That motivated me even more the following week and I finished tied for second. I was T39 at the U.S. Women’s Open and then T11 in New Jersey, and I felt like my game was rounding into form. I wanted to try to get win number nine as fast as possible!
I knew I had another opportunity to win the Meijer, especially after opening with 8-under in the first round, and shooting 8-under again in the second round. The weather forced us to play parts of rounds on different days, and I only shot 3-under in the third round, but still, I knew I had a great chance to lift the trophy.
I had the lead since Thursday, pretty much, and I thought the trophy was mine as long as I could put together a great day. But with how many people were chasing me, a ‘great’ day is really what I needed.
I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to win that individual golf tournament, or that I wanted to get win number nine – neither thought was ahead of the other. I wanted to do both, together.
Walking down 18 on Sunday I didn’t actually know where everybody was, I had to wait to see the scoreboard after I hit my second shot into that par five closing hole. I figured I needed a birdie, but I was relieved I just needed a par. It was the most nervous I had ever been! My hands were shaking, and it was a really crazy feeling for me. I get nerves, but the last 10 minutes of that round were so nerve-wracking for me.
I was so glad to have got it done, and I felt like it was a huge deal for me and for Canada as well. I was so happy to be able to have broken that record and now I can focus on how many more I can get.
I’ve been asked a few times about how many wins I think I’ll get, but I can’t really set a long-term goal. With how much talent is on the LPGA Tour, you need to think more short-term and that’s what I’m doing. Every year I’m just trying to be as successful as I can be.
I’m looking forward to trying to win more major championships, keep contending at the CP Women’s Open, and stay inside the top-10 in the world ranking. For now I’m focusing on the little things that will put me in contention so I can take it across the finish line on Sunday afternoons.
One of the best things out there on the LPGA Tour is to see all the members of the Brooke Brigade cheer me on. It was amazing to know legends like Mike Weir and Sandra Post were cheering me on, too.
With every win I’m getting more confident, and this year, after my ninth victory, I’m ready and excited to get the next one!