Brooke Henderson realised her potential at the Women’s PGA Championship in June, where the 18-year-old claimed her first Major title after a playoff victory over world No 1 Lydia Ko, who was going for her third straight Major.
Henderson achieved fame as a 16-year-old amateur who tied for 10th place at the 2014 US Women’s Open. She turned professional in 2015 and capped off her rookie year with an eight-stroke victory at the Cambia Portland Classic in August.
This year the Ontario-born golfer had amassed nine top-10s in the buildup to the Women’s PGA Championship and knew a win was close. She arrived at Sahalee Country Club full of confidence, having tied for fifth there while playing off a sponsor’s invitation last year.
Ko, meanwhile, was looking for a third consecutive Major title and led by one stroke going into the final round. She went out in 33 on Sunday for a three-shot lead at the turn and it looked like business as usual for the New Zealander.
Henderson began her chase by draining a 90-foot eagle putt at the 11th to move within a stroke of the lead. She was spurred on by a healthy group of Canadian fans and sank a 50-footer for birdie at the 17th on her way to a share of the lead.
‘When that putt went in on No 11 for eagle, that was kind of like the huge jump forward, huge momentum changer. And then things just really went pretty well,’ she said.
A par at the last gave her the clubhouse lead on six under par, which Ko then matched after signing for a round of 67.
Henderson was playing her best golf, but faced sudden-death holes against her toughest counterpart. She shrugged off the pressure and during the first extra trip down the 18th hit an approach to within three feet of the cup. She boxed the putt for birdie to become a Major champion.
‘That playoff against Lydia Ko, the world No 1, great competitor, she’s already won the last two Majors on the LPGA Tour – I knew I would have to do something special to beat her, and I was able to do that,’ she said.
Ko was humble in defeat and lauded Henderson’s victory.
‘I just got outplayed today,’ Ko said. ‘For her to shoot six under at a course like this is amazing. And to go for the pin in that playoff hole took a lot of confidence. For her to finish on top, I think everyone was waiting for that moment.’
Henderson rose to No 2 in the world and third on the LPGA Tour’s Official Money List. More than that, she learned she can beat the best.
‘Major champion, that’s a dream come true,’ she said. ‘I made some really clutch putts coming down the stretch and it’s pretty cool that we’re [Ko and herself] both kind of coming on to the stage. I hope we have lots of extra holes like that or lots of times where we’re contending for the championship.’