HARRISON, N.Y. – Brooke Henderson fought through Friday’s challenges to keep herself in position for a run at history this weekend at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
With an even-par 73, Henderson found herself one shot behind Karrie Webb, the leader through the morning wave.
Henderson, the 17-year-old phenom from Canada, is trying to become the youngest winner of a major championship in the history of women’s golf. Morgan Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old in 2007.
There’s a lot riding on Henderson’s performance this weekend. If she wins, she will also likely win LPGA membership.
Henderson battled to stay in the hunt with five birdies and five bogeys in the second round.
“I didn't have my A-game today,” Henderson said. “I hit a lot of shots just really close to being really good but would just roll off the back because the greens were a little bit firmer and a little bit faster. I had to pay attention to where I was leaving the ball. Today was up-and-down a lot.”
After Thursday’s round, Brooke’s father, Dave, expressed strong feelings that Brooke has already proven herself worthy of LPGA membership and that tour commissioner Mike Whan ought to find a way to make it happen this year. After Friday’s round, Dave said he didn’t mean to cause any controversy, but he didn’t back down in his belief that his daughter has shown she is deserving of tour membership and that he would like to see tour rules changed. He’s caddying for Brooke this week.
The LPGA has a rule requiring members to be 18 years old. Henderson turns 18 on Sept. 10. Whan denied her petition for a waiver of the rule last year, a waiver that would have allowed her to go to LPGA Q-School. She turned pro in December anyway and is trying to earn tour status playing LPGA events this year on sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers.
Henderson is playing her seventh LPGA event this season. She played five of them on sponsor exemptions and two via Monday qualifying. She’s playing well. She tied for third at the Swinging Skirts Classic, missing out on a playoff by a single shot. She led after the second and third rounds. She also grabbed the second-round lead at the North Texas Shootout and tied for 13th there.
If Henderson wins this week, it’s likely Whan would grant a waiver of the tour’s age rule and allow her to claim membership based on the victory. He did so for Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko after they won LPGA events before they turned 18.
If Henderson doesn’t win any of her LPGA starts this year, she can still avoid Q-School and earn membership through top-40 money equivalency. If by year’s end Henderson earns money winnings that are equivalent to or better than the player who ranks 40th on the final LPGA money list, she could claim membership for 2016.
With a trophy on the line this weekend, Henderson is focused on putting up the best scores she can.
“It's pretty exciting being able to play against the best in the world on one of the best golf courses and best-run tournaments,” Henderson said. “It's really exciting seeing my name up there with Stacy Lewis and Karrie Webb and all the big names. It's awesome. I think I just have to stay patient, stay consistent and keep working on my game and I think good things will happen.”