Four years ago on Monday, Brooke Henderson made her first mark in professional golf. At age 14, she won on the Canadian Women’s Tour to become the youngest known winner of a professional golf event. In winning the 36-hole event near Montreal, she was two days younger than Lydia Ko when she won in Australia earlier in 2012.
Cut to last week in suburban Seattle when Henderson, 18, had the week of a lifetime to beat Ko, 19, on the first playoff hole of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. At Sahalee Country Club, the Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada native made an ace in the first round (the prize car went to older sister/caddie Brittany), holed a 90-foot momentum-changing eagle putt on the 11th hole in the final round, canned a 40-footer for birdie on the 17th, sank a 12-foot par putt on the final green and then stuck a 7-iron to 3 feet on the playoff hole to make birdie and earn her first major championship. At 18 years, 9 months and 2 days, Henderson was just more than 4 months older than Ko when she won the Evian Championship last fall to become the youngest major winner.
Adding to the age qualification, third place last week went to Thailand’s 20-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn, who was going for a fourth consecutive LPGA victory. The first three places and their final-round scores included an 18-year-old firing 65, a 19-year-old shooting 67 and a 20-year-old with a 66. Henderson became the youngest winner this season where the average age of LPGA winners over 16 tournaments is 21.
Taking the age factor even further with Henderson goes back to her home country, Canada. She is only the second Canadian to win a women’s major championship, following Sandra Post, who was 20 when she beat Kathy Whitworth, the defending champion, at the 1968 LPGA Championship. She too won in a playoff, beating Whitworth 68-75 in an 18-hole playoff at Pleasant Valley in Sutton, Mass. Post, 68, sent good wishes to Henderson before last week’s event from her golf academy near Toronto. The only victory that might supersede Henderson’s victory came at the 2003 Masters when Canadian left-hander Mike Weir won on the first hole of a playoff. Henderson was age 5 then.
“Yeah, it will be a big story in Canada,” Henderson said on Sunday. “The last couple of days the support from Canada has been really incredible. Walking down the fairway, they were yelling my name. But last time they were just yelling Go Canada. And that was kind of a surreal feeling. I can't really put words to it. But I’d like to say that I am the Canadian face to women’s golf. And I'd like to say I'm a good athlete for Canada.”