A tour that seemingly can do no wrong got it right again. Not only did LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan promptly accept Brooke Henderson’s application for membership after the 17-year-old shot a record-setting 21-under par in Portland on Sunday to win the Cambia Portland Classic by eight, he did it at exactly the right time, preserving the benchmark that a player must win in order for the tour to wave its minimum age rule.
Whan also continued to be as charmed as any commissioner in sports. Henderson’s win came one week before she returned home to Canada to play in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. And the LPGA’s statement on her membership came mere hours before Henderson’s scheduled press conference at Vancouver Golf Club.
“After reviewing Brooke Henderson’s petition, I have granted her LPGA Tour membership beginning immediately,” Whan’s statement read. “Brooke will compete out of Category 7 on the 2015 LPGA Priority List for the remainder of this season and also for the 2016 season.
“Category 7 is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the current or previous calendar year. Brooke truly earned her card, and we are looking forward to Brooke joining our Tour and our family. She is a special player and a wonderful person.”
That’s understating things by a wide margin. With a sparkling smile, a bubbly personality that is a marketer’s dream and a golf swing that is as athletic as anything in the women’s game, Henderson has superstar qualities that could vault her (and the tour) to another level.
“Since I was a little girl in Smiths Falls, Ontario, my dream has been to play on the LPGA Tour,” Henderson said in a statement. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to join the Tour as a member and play alongside so many of my role models.
“Realizing this dream here at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in my native Canada is even more amazing and I am so proud to be an ambassador for golf in this amazing country. I would like to thank Commissioner Mike Whan, the LPGA Tour staff, and all my sponsors, fans, friends and my amazing family for all the support I have received.”
Could it get any better than that?
Well, yes, if Henderson wins a couple of more events this season and works her way up the Rolex Rankings, the LPGA could experience a popularity boom. Given what’s happened so far under Whan’s watch, you shouldn’t bet against it.