MARKHAM, Ont. – Brooke Henderson is close to deciding her golf future.
The 17-year-old rising star from Smiths Falls, Ont., said Friday she expects to make a decision in the next two weeks regarding whether she’ll enrol at the University of Florida or join the LPGA Tour. Henderson, who is No. 1 in the world amateur golf rankings, has won seven amateur titles and two pro events this season while making the cut in all four LPGA tournaments she entered.
“Right now I’m making a lot of decisions, the big one being whether to go to Florida, which is one of the top-ranked schools in the U.S., or turn professional,” Henderson said during a telephone interview. “My decision is a little unclear at the moment but I think in the next couple of weeks a decision should be made.”
Giving Henderson food for thought is her performance in the LPGA events.
Not only did the articulate, well-spoken teen make the cut in all four tournaments, she finished tied for 10th — and was the top amateur — in the U.S. Women’s Open. She also finished tied for 26th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which is also a major.
Henderson was victorious at the Canadian Women’s Tour Ontario and PGA Women’s Championship of Canada and was also the low amateur and low Canuck at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in London, Ont., last August — the LPGA Tour’s lone stop north of the border.
“Those two (majors), really, were confidence boosters and showed me, ‘You know what? I can compete with the best,”’ Henderson said. “I know I still have a long way to go until I am consistently up there at the top but those were definitely key moments in my summer.”
Earlier this month, Henderson won the individual title at the world amateur championship in Japan and combined with Brittany Marchand of Orangeville, Ont., and Augusta James of Bath, Ont., to earn Canada a second-place finish in the team event.
For Henderson, it’s a perfect prep event for the upcoming World Junior Girls Championship at Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont.
“It doesn’t happen often in golf that it’s a team sport,” Henderson said. “The Ryder Cup is going on right now but other than that, there’s not many team events so it is a learning experience, definitely.
“But coming off the world amateur, that was my last tournament so I’m still in that mindset and I think that’s definitely going to help.”
As the host country, Canada will field two three-golfer teams in the inaugural 15-country event, which begins Sunday. Henderson, Ottawa’s Grace St-Germain and Victoria’s Naomi Ko will make up one squad while the other will consist of Calgary’s Jaclyn Lee, Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., and Alisha Lau of Richmond, B.C.
The 72-hole tournament runs through Wednesday. A total of 48 golfers aged 19 and under are scheduled to participate in team and individual competition.
Qualifying countries were invited based upon how they fared at the 2012 event in Turkey.
“They picked the top countries so they’re all very good players, they’re all very skilled,” Henderson said. “There’s always Korea, the U.S., and Japan who are always right up there.
“You’ve got to play your own game but also keep an eye on them.”
Playing on home soil will put added pressure on the Canadians, but Henderson says that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“If there’s pressure, it means you’re doing something right and you’re expected to complete something,” she said. “Definitely everyone here wants us to play well and play our best and hopefully hold up that trophy at the end of the week.
“There’s always going to be that little bit, you just have to take the challenge and run with it.”
And given her place in the world rankings, that’s an attitude Henderson plans to take on to the course.
“Like I said, you have to take that challenge and perform your best,” she said. “If you’re able to represent your country and the people around you along the way, that’s perfect.
“The key is definitely to play my own game. It’s a team event but if I play well then it’s going to help my team in the long run.”
Golf is slated to return to the Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and if the Canadian team was selected now, Henderson would make the cut as the highest-ranked female among pro golfers in the country. Although that selection won’t be made for a while, Henderson definitely wants to wear Canada’s colours in an Olympic competition.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Canada and go to the Olympics,” she said. “I’m excited right now because I am the No. 1-ranked professional in Canada so if the team was chosen right now I’d be picked to go to Rio and compete.
“I’m excited to be in this position and hopefully over the next two years I stay there.”