Big Break Atlantis Competitor
Current Residence: Temecula, Calif.
Hometown: Apple Valley, Calif.
Home Course: Journey at Pechanga
College: University of California-Irvine
Profession: Professional Golfer
Like many professional golfers trying to earn their way to the LPGA Tour, the journey is filled with highs and lows. Selanee Henderson is no exception.
Sports have always come easy to Henderson. She comes from an athletic family (her brother, Dan Henderson is a professional Mixed Martial Artist fighter), and competed in multiple sports growing up, including soccer, softball and basketball, in addition to golf.
Soccer and golf were the two sports that Henderson excelled. In high school, she was a four-year letterman in both sports. She was the captain of her soccer team and the captain of the men’s golf team. In golf, she was two-time member of the World Junior Golf Cup, advanced to the quarterfinals in the 2004 U.S. Girls Junior Amateur and advanced to match-play in the U.S. Amateur Public Links five consecutive years. She thrived of the challenges and success that golf presented to her. During her junior year, she decided to make a swing change with the goal of improving her career as she entered college.
She found immediate success. Henderson was an All-Big West Conference first team selection all four years at the University of California-Irvine, where she accumulated six victories, highlighted by medalist honors at the 2006 Big West Conference Women’s Golf Championship and being named player of the year. The highlight of her golf career was qualifying and competing in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, her first professional tournament, which also happens to be a Major.
“It was an awesome and fun experience, but very overwhelming at the same time,” explained Henderson. “I learned so much playing with some of the LPGA’s best players. I told myself that I am going to be playing right alongside them.”
It was after the U.S. Women’s Open that her personal battle with golf began. She developed a hitch in her swing.
“I have really been struggling since my senior year of college,” explained Henderson, who is competing full-time on the Symetra Tour in 2012. I have always been a natural athlete when it comes to golf, and things just have not gone my way these past few years.”
She recalls starting to flinch in her swing during her junior year of college, right after coming off of the U.S. Women’s Open. Following that tournament, she first noticed she was flinching through impact, better known to amateur golfers as the ‘yips.’ Instead of taking a step back and figuring out what was causing the flinch, she continued to play through it. She assumed it would solve itself over time. The flinch progressively got worse. It became mentally draining for Henderson, but she refused to stop competing.
“Golf has been my entire life since I was a little girl,” said Henderson. “To have this fear of flinching or the yips come over me, it has been the most difficult thing to overcome and figure out.”
Henderson has been battling the flinch in her golf swing for more than four years. While she has had moderate success on the Symetra Tour, she has not been able to completely rid herself of the problem. In addition to the mental stress, she battled a nagging back injury that ultimately was diagnosed as arthritis in her lower back.
"Right as I thought I was overcoming the mental demons in my golf game, I started feeling pain in my back,” recalled Henderson. “When you develop something like the yips that is more mental than physical, it is so easier to relapse than to overcome it. Then add a back injury to that and it's even more difficult. “The thought of quitting golf has crossed my mind.”
Last year was such a struggle for Henderson that she was dreading heading into the 2012 season. It was late last year that two close friends on Tour, Mallory Blackwelder and Nicole Smith, suggested Henderson to audition for Big Break. Little did they know what that suggestion would do to Henderson’s outlook on golf.
“The pressure on Big Break is like nothing I have ever experienced,” said Henderson. “Being in those pressure situations in front of all of those cameras, it forced me to just hit the ball and not think about it. I learned more from my Big Break experience than my entire last year on the Symetra Tour. I've won six tournaments in college and played in the US Women's Open and I've never felt more nervous than on Big Break.”
Henderson has full status on the Symetra Tour in 2012. Her back is healthy enough to take on a full golf schedule. She also has a new, fresh outlook on the game of golf, and for the first time in a few years, is excited about what the future holds.