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LPGA: Henderson's money counts for membership

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Good news for Brooke Henderson.

She would rank 29th on this week’s LPGA money list with $161,557 in earnings if she were a tour member.

Better news for Henderson.

The money she is winning as a 17-year-old will count, after all, if she applies for LPGA membership based on non-member equivalent earnings after she turns 18 later this year, according to LPGA officials.

Henderson’s bid to earn tour membership has been complicated by LPGA rules that require members to be at least 18 years old. Henderson turns 18 on Sept. 10.

Based on the LPGA’s interpretation of how age applies to Category 10 (top 40 non-member money) of its Priority List, Henderson can earn LPGA membership without going to Q-School in one of two ways this season:

A) If Henderson wins an LPGA event, she could claim membership for the rest of this year and next year, provided she is granted a waiver of the tour’s age restriction.

B)  Henderson can also claim membership via Category 10 for next year by winning the equivalent of top 40 money earnings by season’s end.

Because Category 10’s wording requires members to be 18 to be eligible for membership based on non-member winnings, Henderson and her managers faced a question of whether money she is winning as a 17-year-old this calendar year would count after she turned 18. Based on the category’s wording, it was unclear if Henderson would require some sort of waiver or exception to make those winnings applicable.

LPGA chief tour operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio, speaking in general about a non-member who earns money in LPGA events before turning 18, told that such earnings can be applied toward Category 10 membership once a player turns 18.

Henderson could get eight or more starts before the year is out to earn tour membership without going to Q-School. She learned Wednesday that she has received a sponsor’s exemption to the Kingsmill Championship next week. That’s her second sponsor’s invite this year. She also has sponsor exemptions to the ShopRite Classic and Manulife Classic in the weeks following Kingsmill and is expected to receive one for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.

Henderson can use up to six sponsor exemptions this year. She also is qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, based on her top-10 finish in the event last year. She also could try to qualify for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, or she could gain a special invitation to play without it counting against the sponsor exemption limits. Henderson has already played her way into two LPGA events this year via Monday qualifiers and could try more.