Brooke Henderson seemingly never forgets a good deed. The sponsor’s exemption she was given seven years ago into the ShopRite LPGA Classic is a kindness that, to this day, has stayed with the Canadian.
Being given that chance, as then just a 17-year-old, to chase her dream of competing on the LPGA Tour, has stuck with the Canadian all these years later. And the feeling it gave her, that sense of trust bestowed on her to be able to compete amongst the world’s best, is one she leaned on Sunday en route to victory at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“It's a really special event to me,” said Henderson after her win. “They gave me a sponsor's invite in 2015, so it's always been a really special place for me.“
Sunday, Henderson rallied from a four-stroke deficit to defeat Lindsay Weaver-Wright with an eagle on the first playoff hole to capture her 11th career win on the LPGA Tour.
Henderson victories have come in bunches as she’s racked up wins in locales and on courses where she has “good vibes,” as she often calls them.
The ShopRite LPGA Classic had all the good feelings flowing for Henderson who had fond memories of competing in the event as a teen and with the tournament a drivable distance from her home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, friends and family were able to make the trip to spend the week with her in New Jersey. She felt at home. She felt comfortable.
But in recent years, Henderson hasn’t felt so comfortable and largely due to factors outside her control.
Due to the pandemic in 2020, Henderson’s parents were unable to travel from their home in Canada and went months without seeing their daughter. It was a challenge not just for the family, who often spent weeks together on the road, but it also impacted Henderson’s game. Brooke’s father, Dave, is also the only coach she’s known. In 2020, Henderson went without a win for the first time since joining the Tour in 2015. The feelings just weren’t there.
In 2022, with her parents once again a fixture on Tour, she faced a new challenge. Henderson played with a 48-inch driver for as long as she could remember. It was a perfect fit for her as the one-time hockey goalie would grip down on the club similar to how she would on a hockey stick. When a new local rule was adopted at the start of the year, which restricted driver length, Henderson was forced to find another option. She was once again out of her comfort zone.
Henderson found a new driver while still reeling with the fallout of 2020. Her putting had largely hampered her success over the past two seasons. She swapped out putters, grips, and stances. She started putting with the flagstick in the hole. Brooke and her caddie and sister, Brittany, experimented in every way possible to improve her short game.
In the weeks leading up to the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Henderson landed on a left-hand low putting style. Henderson found something that made her feel at ease on the greens and gave her a new sense of confidence that was on full display as she rolled in a six-footer for eagle and the win on the first playoff hole in New Jersey. Henderson was feeling good.
“I just wanted to hold tight to this one and hopefully get another victory here in the next few weeks,” Henderson said on Sunday, “because there is a very busy schedule and I'm looking forward to competing.”
There’s a reason Henderson is excited for the next two stops on the LPGA Tour. She’s won them both.
First up is the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Henderson has won twice before, including on Father’s Day.
The next stop is the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Although the championship moves to a different location each year, no matter the venue, Henderson is always a factor. Why? Because she has great feelings when she plays there. The championship gave her a sponsor exemption in 2015 which she parlayed into a top 5 finish. She won the following year to become the youngest winner in the major’s history and has three more top 10s.
The next two weeks are big for Nelly Korda, too, as she seeks to defend two titles.
At the Meijer LPGA Classic, Korda will tee it up for just the second time since returning to competition following surgery to remove a blood clot in her arm. As defending champion, she’ll have plenty of her own positive memories. Korda’s win in Michigan became the springboard to her first major title at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, a gold medal performance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and elevated her to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.
Henderson’s ability to trust her natural instincts has earned her more victories than any other golfer, male or female, from Canada. Taught by her hockey-loving father how to swing a golf club, Henderson has become the most prolific golfer in Canadian golf history by largely relying on her senses. She doesn’t have an orthodox swing and for years, despite being a mere 5’4” tall, swung one of the longest drivers on the LPGA Tour with a grip it and rip it approach off most tee boxes. That’s what felt good to her, and that’s what worked.
And, Brooke Henderson will never forget how a good deed once made her feel.