'It took a lot of pressure off me for the rest of my career'
Until 2015, only one player – Morgan Pressel eight years earlier – had won a major at the age of 18. Then came a flurry of three in four, as Lydia Ko won back-to-back majors at the Evian Championship and ANA Inspiration. Two months later, Ko got into a play-off at the Women’s PGA Championship with a fellow 18-year-old by the name of Brooke Henderson.
In the sudden-death play-off, Henderson left herself a kick-in birdie and with it a place at golf’s top table.
But this was no fluke. The previous year, and still three weeks shy of her 18th birthday, the Canadian came through Monday qualifying at the Portland Classic. She went on to win by eight – the largest margin of victory on the LPGA Tour for three years – and become the Tour’s third youngest winner.
Three years on from her major breakthrough, Henderson now has eight LPGA titles to her name, including the Lotte Championship in April that drew her level with Canadian legend Sandra Post.
It’s hard to believe the World No. 8 is still only 21.
Henderson chatted to LG from her home in Ontario about that breakthrough win, setting records, and missing out on the Solheim Cup…
How did winning a major – particularly at such a young age – impact your life?
To be 18, going up against Lydia Ko, who was World No. 1 at the time, and be able to perform under pressure like that was great.
That win was huge for my career. It took a lot of the pressure off me for the rest of my career, because a lot of players are constantly asked about when they will win their first major, but I’ve already done that.
It gave me a huge amount of confidence and the media and fan attention that I gained from that event was unreal.
How did you cope with the challenges that your early success brought?
Having my sister caddie for me, my dad was my coach, and working with the Canadian National team really helped.
I was always trying to chase after the next goal and as a team we have always worked really well together.
Everybody’s path is going to be different. Individuals mature at different ages and grow into their games at different times.
In my case, I had got to No. 1 amateur in the world and I was winning pretty consistently on the amateur tour, so it was a case of what was next for me?
I sat down with my family and we believed that it was the right moment to turn professional and take my game to the next level.
It was scary as a 17-year-old, but everything has worked out so well and I wouldn’t change it.
You have nine top-10 major finishes. How close is that second win?
I love major championships. There’s just a different feel about them that make it really exciting.
Some of my best performances have come at majors, like my 2nd place at the Women’s PGA. If I’d caught a few more breaks coming down the stretch I could have won and I feel that the next one is really close.
And you’ve equalled fellow Canadian Sandra Post’s record of eight LPGA wins…
To tie the record and even have my name in the same sentence as Sandra’s is really awesome.
It’s a pretty cool feeling and I really hope that I can keep my streak going of winning twice a year on the LGPA, which I’ve done since 2016.
You’re one of the longest hitters on tour, what’s your secret?
It’s really down to the fact that I was always chasing my older sister. She is six years older so was always a lot bigger and stronger, so she hit the ball way further.
I was always doing anything I could to do keep up with her – that is where my athletic, non-traditional swing comes from.
I have a 48-inch driver shaft which I have used for a few years and I love it. I’m a pretty accurate driver of the ball so if I can get a couple more yards of distance then I’m going to take that.
Who’s your favourite playing partner on tour?
I’m fortunate that I have a lot of friends out there. Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee and Lexi Thompson are all great fun to play with and I have a lot of respect for all of them.
What’s your take on slow play?
It depends on the conditions – when it’s windy and cold people need to take a little more time, but sometimes it can get pretty slow.
When you look at the men’s tours, it’s always something that the USGA and R&A are trying to fix but it happens to all the tours, and maybe we do need to speed up a little bit.
Have you ever been put on the clock?
I have been from time to time but when I’m out there playing it doesn’t feel slow.
You’re part of the LPGA’s #DriveOn campaign trying to grow the game…
The message behind that campaign is so powerful, and it’s not just inspiring us on the LPGA but hopefully girls in all different sports of all ages to chase their dreams and not let negativity bring them down. I’m really proud to be part of that campaign.
And finally, as a Canadian, would you like to see an alternative to the Solheim Cup?
There should be! We have to sit and watch them play every other year, which is hard to do when they are out there competing and taking their game to the next level.
What about adapting the Solheim Cup to include more nationalities? Maybe make it North America vs. the rest of the world?
There are lots of up-and-coming talent from Canada as well as the likes of myself, Lydia, who’s from New Zealand, and a lot of Asian players that could be a part of something bigger.
The Solheim Cup is so exciting to watch – Europe and the US going head to head – so I definitely think there should be another event that is close to it.
Perhaps something similar to what they do in the men’s game with the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.
More from LG
Brooke Henderson wears Skechers shoes. For more information, visit the Skechers website.