KPMG champ Brooke Henderson helps Morgan Pressel Foundation fight cancer

By Steve Waters
Published on
KPMG champ Brooke Henderson helps Morgan Pressel Foundation fight cancer

BOCA RATON -- Brooke Henderson went from stopping shots in hockey rinks to hitting shots on golf courses.

Growing up in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Henderson was a goalie for a girls' provincial championship team but gave up hockey at age 14 when she made Canada's national golf team and won her first professional tournament as an amateur.

Now 19 and with three LPGA Tour victories, including a major, she is one of the sport's brightest young stars.

Henderson had an exceptional 2016 season, finishing third on the money list with $1.7 million. She won the KPMG Women's PGA Championship to become the second-youngest major winner after Lydia Ko and tied for seventh at the Rio Olympics playing for Canada.

Not among the Tour's statistical leaders except in tournaments played -- she made 30 of 31 cuts -- she finds a way to get the ball in the hole.

"I think maybe I don't specialize in one thing, but overall things kind of seem to work out well," said Henderson, who is ranked eighth in the world. "Maybe one day my ball striking's really good and the other day my putter and my chipper make up for it. I feel like I'm a well-balanced player, and I depend on all parts of my game on different days."

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She showed off her game Monday at the Morgan Pressel Foundation's 10th annual Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer Tournament at St. Andrews Country Club, which raised a record $1,000,622 million this year to bring the event's total to more than $6 million.

"Last year I wasn't a part of it and I saw the pictures and the videos and I saw that they raised $1 million in basically two days, which is amazing," Henderson said. "When Morgan asked me to be a part of it, I was really honored and really excited.

"I'm kind of mind-blown about everything that goes on here because it's truly incredible and I know it means a lot to Morgan, and I'm just glad that I can help out in a small way and make a difference in a lot of people's lives."

Pressel, an LPGA veteran at age 28, was 15 when her mother, Kathryn, died from breast cancer. Her tournament helps fund cancer genetics research and a mobile unit that provides affordable mammograms throughout South Florida.

In addition to hosting the tournament and taking part in clinics that included Henderson, Ko, Paula Creamer, Gerina Piller and Bernhard Langer, Pressel hit the first tee shot on the first hole of the club's new Tom Fazio course, which is a total renovation of what was called the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Henderson and her sister and caddie, Brittany, 26, were taught to play golf by their father, Dave. A schoolteacher and talented golfer who played goalie for the University of Toronto, he also coached Henderson in hockey.

Brittany said having been a goalie, where you are either the hero or the goat, made her sister mentally tough, which gives her an edge on the golf course.

"She's never really afraid, which I think is really important when you're playing any sport at a high level," Brittany said. "I think she really learned it from hockey. When you're a goalie, you have pucks being fired at you and if you flinch, you're in trouble."

Henderson didn't flinch as a 17-year-old amateur in 2015 when she had three top-five finishes in pro tournaments but was not granted an exception to the LPGA's rule requiring members to be at least 18. So she qualified on a Monday for the tour's Cambia Portland Classic in Oregon and then won it by eight shots. After the victory, she was granted LPGA membership by Commissioner Mike Whan.

"Growing up a big goal of mine was to win on the LPGA Tour and to be a member and both of those things kind of happened at the same time, which was pretty cool," Henderson said. "It made my decision to turn pro look really smart after I won and it gave me a lot of confidence because I knew I would have Tour status for the following year and that's really what I was after."

This past year, Henderson won her major by defeating world No. 1 Ko on the first playoff hole and defended her title in Portland to prove her success was not a fluke.

"That's kind of what I wanted to do. I didn't want to be a person that just wins once and is never seen again," she said. "I think last year kind of proved that I'm around for a long time and hopefully this year I can maybe get some more wins or just be more consistent, near the top of the leaderboard."

This article is written by Steve Waters from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.