‘Ottawa’ ‘Like Winning the Stanley Cup For Me,’ Henderson Says After Dramatic LPGA Major Victory
SAMMAMISH, Wash. — The ball bored through the long shadows amid the towering trees along the 18th hole at Sahalee Country Club and never left the flag.
It leapt off the face of the 7-iron of Brooke Henderson, needing to cover 158 yards, slightly up hill, and went almost exactly that.
It stopped three feet from the hole and, moments after World No. 1 Lydia Ko missed a 12-foot putt in a playoff for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Henderson, the 18-year-old from Smiths Falls, rolled her birdie putt home and owned what is perhaps the second biggest victory in Canadian golf history.
She turned and hugged Ko and she and sister Brittany, her caddie, were doused with water (and maybe some beer) by fellow Canadian player Alena Sharp, Sharp’s caddie Sarah Bowman, and agent Gabe Codding, who ran onto the green.
Later, she hefted the silver trophy over her head like the Stanley Cup in front of the scoreboard while people shouted “Go Canada.”
“This might be like winning the Stanley Cup for me,” she said, “This, or Olympic gold.”
This will do for now.
Nothing will probably ever top Mike Weir’s win in at the 2003 Masters (he tweeted congratulations to Henderson after the round), but this is pretty special. That 7-iron on the 18th hole will go down as one of the great shots in Canadian golf history.
Henderson becomes the second youngest player to win a women’s major behind the 19-year-old Ko, who was gunning for her third straight major, and joins Sandra Post, who won this event in 1968, as the only Canadian women to own majors.
“It was a pretty good day for me. I really didn’t feel a ton of pressure or nerves, which was the key to me shooting 6-under in the final round,” said Henderson.
“Definitely in my dreams I didn’t know if it (winning a major]) would come true. I’m speechless.”
With Brittany on the bag, Henderson fired a 6-under-par 65 on Sunday, making up the two shots by which she trailed Ko going into the final round.
“I played really solid today,” said a gracious Ko, who had a 67. “Brooke just outplayed me.”
A clutch birdie from about 35 feet on the par-3 17th pulled Henderson into a tie and set up the playoff when Ko failed to birdie the 17th or 18th.
Henderson pulled off another great par save on the 18th hole in regulation when her drive found the trees on the right. She punched a shot out, but it caught a branch. She hit up from about 70 yards and made about a 10-foot par putt to stay at 6-under.
Her win was set up by an outstanding drive on the 18th hole, about 20 yards by Ko’s and on the left side of the fairway, setting up a situation where Team Henderson could go for the flag.
“Luckily we had a pretty good angle. The drive was perfect, especially with the pin where it was. We thought we could land something 153 and get a little bit of release. We were basically trying to take dead aim.”
She executed it perfectly.
“That drive on the playoff hole was really big, especially after in regulation I had hit it through,” said Henderson. “And my new putter? I love that thing.”
Henderson changed putters on Tuesday, opting for a PING Vault Series model called the Oslo which came out Monday.
Henderson displayed a spectacular short game on Sunday.
Henderson’s round was highlighted by an eagle from 100 feet on the par-5 11th hole which she drained from off the front of the green with her putter.
That pulled her to within a shot of Ko and they traded birdies down the stretch with Henderson drawing even with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.
Henderson, who is expected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings, was also helped by some outstanding sand play. She got up and down four times, making birdie on the sixth and saving pars on the seventh, eighth and 15th holes.
The golf world can look forward to these two teenagers battling it out and giving us theatre like we had on Sunday for years to come.
“It looks like our careers will start close to the same time and probably end at the same time,” said Henderson. “I hope we have lots of extra holes like that or lots of times where we’re contending for the championship.”
If we’re lucky.