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Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Next Young LPGA Superstar?

If you've been immersed in all the drama going on at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship, you can be forgiven for not keeping up with this week's goings-on at the LPGA's Cambia Portland Classic. (Of course, if you're resourceful like me, you could have been watching the LPGA on your iPad while the PGA was playing on the TV. Just saying...) But this week is becoming important for an unexpected reason.

Let me bring you up-to-date on what's happening in Oregon since it has the potential to shift the balance of power among the Top10 players on the LPGA.

In case you don't recognize the young lady in the photo below, let me introduce you to Brooke Henderson, a 17-year-old from Canada.

Brooke Henderson

I'm not going to bore you with her amateur career. It's pretty impressive but you can look it up on Wikipedia or some of the sports sites.

As a pro this year she's won on the Symetra Tour and has a Top3 finish at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic where she missed a playoff with Lydia Ko and Morgan Pressel by a single shot, plus T5s in both the ANA Inspiration and the US Women's Open. And she came into this week ranked #32 in the Rolex Rankings, making her the leading Olympic qualifier for Canada. Clearly she's got some game.

She and her sister Brittany both play the Symetra Tour and often caddie for each other. In fact, Brooke was supposed to caddie for Brittany this week until Brooke Monday-qualified in Portland. You can read more about it in this LPGA article. We talk a lot about the character of players like Jordan, Rickie and Rory; this article will give you some idea what kind of person Brooke is.

She petitioned the LPGA for membership earlier but was refused, so she's trying to bypass Q-School by making as much money as the 40th player on the LPGA money list by the end of the year. That number is expected to be somewhere around $400k, and Brooke has already made $466,264 with at least a couple more events to play after this one. (Her current winnings would put her 20th.)

But apparently she has decided she doesn't want to wait. As this Sunday morning dawns, Brooke Henderson has a 5-shot lead on the field in Portland after rounds of 66-67-65, putting her at -18 with only one bogey all week. After she Monday-qualified for this event -- and only one player in the history of the LPGA has ever won an event after Monday-qualifying -- it's hard to believe Mike Whan could refuse her petition if she wins today.

And that could dramatically alter an already competitive LPGA line-up. This year Brooke has shown an ability to put the hammer down when the pressure is on, and she seems as unfazed by the LPGA's talent as Jordan Spieth is by the PGA's.

While you're watching the final round of the PGA Championship today, you might want to keep one eye on the Cambia Portland Classic. History might be made there too.

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