Updated April 26, 1:10 p.m.
DALY CITY, Calif. – Brooke Henderson can win more than an LPGA title Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Classic.
As a 17-year-old, she has a chance to win the LPGA membership she so craves.
Winners of LPGA events who are not members can claim membership with a victory. They can claim membership for the remainder of the year in which they won and for the following year, or they can choose to defer membership to the following year. However, there’s a proviso for Henderson if she wins. Because she’s only 17, she would have to petition the LPGA for a waiver of its rule requiring members be at least 18 years old.
She was denied such a waiver last summer. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan has made it clear winning an LPGA event is one of the prerequisites for his consideration of granting waivers.
“A rule is a rule,” Henderson said of the denial of her petition for a waiver. “Everything happens for a reason. It just wasn’t my time and wasn’t meant to be.
“I respect that decision by the commissioner, and I respect everyone that had a say in it, but I’m hoping to play out here on the LPGA someday, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Henderson, of Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, was the top-ranked amateur in the world when she turned pro last December. She was runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and tied for 10th as low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer. She turns 18 on Sept. 10 and can become an LPGA member through Q-School qualifying later this year, but she is trying to win LPGA membership without going to Q-School.
The quickest way would be to win this week, but she can also win membership through non-member equivalent winnings. If she ends this season with the equivalent of top 40 money winnings, she could claim membership for 2016. Only money earned in events with a cut count toward non-member winnings. However, Henderson’s non-member winnings would not count until she turns 18.
Without membership status this year, Henderson has been trying to earn her way into LPGA events through Monday qualifying and sponsor exemptions. She is limited to six sponsor exemptions, not including invitations to the U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open. She’s using the first of her six sponsor invites this week.
Henderson played her way into the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic earlier this year through Monday qualifying. She tied for 33rd, earning $8,917. She is also playing Symetra Tour events. She tied for second with her older sister, Brittany, at the Symetra’s Florida Natural Charity Classic last month.