It seems so long ago, even to her. But 24 months later, Brooke Henderson has returned to Blythefield Country Club to defend her title at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. The fact that it has been two years since Henderson won in Grand Rapids, Mich. is beside the point. With all the disruptions of 2020 when the Meijer event had to be canceled, Henderson is just happy to be back.
“I always love playing in the Meijer LPGA classic here at Blythefield,” Henderson said upon her arrival in Grand Rapids on Monday. “I have so many wonderful memories winning here twice on Father’s Day. Being able to share that moment with my Dad, as well as alongside my sister and Mom is special. My Dad has played a huge role in my career and so being able to hoist an LPGA trophy to celebrate with him on Father’s Day was pretty cool.”
In addition to 2019, the 23-year-old Canadian won the Meijer in 2017. Her scores in those two victories are a combined 39-under par.
“Grand Rapids has started to feel like home with my two victories here at Blythefield, my own street - Brooke Henderson Lane - and with it being my brother-in-law’s hometown,” Henderson said.
Her brother-in-law, Zach Sepanik, was a sports reporter in Grand Rapids for the local NBC affiliate, WOOD-TV before joining the communications team at the LPGA. Sepanik married Brittany Henderson, a former Symetra Tour player and Brooke’s longtime caddie, on September 23, 2020.
Unfortunately, this edition of the Meijer won’t be the same for the Hendersons. Dave and Darlene, the girls’ parents, remain at home in Smiths Falls, Ontario as COVID-19 lockdowns in Canada continue. And this week, for the first time since the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla., in early February of 2016, Brooke and Brittany will not be working together.
After marrying Sepanik, Brittany applied for new immigration status as the wife of an American citizen. Unfortunately, the application remains in limbo and Brittany’s work visa expired on June 15. The couple bought a house in Naples, Fla. shortly after the wedding and have been working with Senator Marco Rubio’s office to expedite the paperwork. Until the process is complete, however, Brittany can stay in the country with her husband but cannot work in the United States.
“I am disappointed to not have Brit with me this week as we make a great team,” Brooke said. “Unfortunately, there is a delay in her work permit due to Covid. Everything, understandably, has been a bit slower this past year. We respect the process and I look forward to having her back again soon!
“Brit will be in the sister role this week. She is my best friend and always supporting and being there for me.”
This week, Brooke will rely on veteran LPGA Tour caddie Evertte Nini from Austin, Texas. Nini has worked for Mariah Stackhouse, Tiffany Joh and Wei-Ling Hsu in the past. The Hendersons have known Nini for years.
“It will be a big change as Brit has been my only caddy since early 2016,” Brooke said. “This week I have Evertte on the bag who has lots of experience out here and who is a good friend. We will try to keep it simple and have a great week.
She then smiled and said, “I’m happy to be back at Meijer and excited to tee it up on Thursday as defending champion.”