Canada's Henderson near ShopRite lead after 68

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Brooke Henderson put herself in early contention in another LPGA event Friday. 

With her older sister, Brittany, toting her bag as caddie, Brooke opened the ShopRite Classic with a 3-under-par 68, putting her among the top five finishing the morning wave.

Brooke, 17, is making her fifth LPGA start as a non-member this season, her third on a sponsor exemption. She finished third at the Swinging Skirts Classic.

“I think my game is right there,” Henderson said of trying to earn LPGA membership. “I just need to get a little more consistent throughout my game and just keep it going.”

With $171,775 in earnings in her four starts this year, Henderson would rank 29th on the LPGA money list today if she were a tour member. That’s relevant because she can avoid Q-School and earn tour membership for next year if she finishes this season with money winnings that are the equivalent of 40th or better on the money list.

Henderson could also claim tour membership winning this week, but to do so she would first have to gain a waiver of the tour’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old. While there is considerable confusion over Henderson’s birthdate with Wikipedia and other web sites listing it as Oct. 9, she actually turns 18 on Sept. 10.

“The goal is not to go [to Q-School], but I'm definitely preparing to go because finishing in the top 40 would be a hard task, especially playing only 10 events this year,” Henderson said.

It’s possible Henderson could play more than 10 LPGA events this season. She is scheduled to play six on sponsor exemptions, the maximum the LPGA allows. She also will play the U.S. Women’s Open based on her T-10 finish in last year’s event and is hopeful of receiving a special invitation to the Ricoh Women’s Open that won’t count against her sponsor exemption limitations. She has already played two LPGA events via Monday qualifiers and could try to play more.

The Henderson sisters would like nothing better than to play the LPGA together as members. Brittany, 24, plays the Symetra Tour. Brooke and Brittany have taken turns caddying for each other this season and will make their first starts together in an LPGA event next week. Both will play the Manulife LPGA Classic on sponsor exemptions in Cambridge, Ontario.

“I've always looked up to my older sister, and growing up I used to watch her every single week, every weekend playing tournaments, and wanted to be just like her,” Brooke said. “I think having someone to look up to like that has really made me the player I am today, because I was always trying to get to her distance and driver, and I think that's one of the reasons why I do hit the ball so far.”

Brittany is excited about playing with Brooke at Manulife.

“I think it's going to be awesome,” Brittany said. “I can't imagine a better debut for me on the LPGA, and the support for both of us is awesome.”