Henderson finally back home after great start to LPGA season

Brooke Henderson (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

DUNROBIN, Ont. – Canada’s Brooke Henderson is finally getting to enjoy some quality time at home after a whirlwind start to her 2016 golf season.

Her first full campaign with full-time status on the LPGA Tour has been a busy one and the Smiths Falls, Ont., native has shown her rookie season was no fluke.

Henderson has picked up where she left off last year, finishing in the top 10 at eight of the 11 events she has entered this season. She has risen to fifth in the world rankings and is ninth on the money list.

Not bad for someone still four months shy of her 19th birthday.

“I’m playing really well but I know I have big goals and big dreams ahead of me,” Henderson said. “I’m still pushing to be that little bit better.”

Henderson was back in the Ottawa area on Tuesday with her sister Brittany for an appearance at the Kevin Haime Kids to the Course Classic at Eagle Creek Golf Club.

It was her first trip home since Christmas Day.

“It’s really nice to see everybody and be back home in Smiths Falls and sleep in my own bed,” Henderson said.

She plans to relax at her family cottage later this week before getting ready for the May 19-22 Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va. That will kick off another busy run of nine tournaments in a row for the 2015 Canadian Press female athlete of the year.

Henderson is planning to play over 30 tournaments in 2016 and is a virtual lock to be named to the Canadian team that will participate at the Rio Games in August. Right now she’s focused on maintaining her consistent play and continuing her push to reach the top spot in the world rankings.

Henderson became the third-youngest winner in LPGA Tour history last summer when she won the Cambia Portland Classic by eight shots. She was immediately given full Tour membership after the victory.

After rising over 200 spots in the world rankings, she set a pre-season goal of reaching the top 10 and improving her consistency around the greens.

Her top result this season was a second-place showing in early February at the Coates Golf Championship. That kicked off a run of eight straight top-10 finishes.

Consistency has been key to her strong play. Henderson is fifth in scoring average (70.02), 14th in average driving distance (268.36 yards) and 25th in putting average (29.55 putts per round).

She has strayed wide of the fairway at times (108th in driving accuracy at 66.01 per cent) but is 13th in greens in regulation (74.37 per cent).

“I’ve definitely had a really good start and my game is in a good place,” Henderson said. “I definitely have small improvements that I want to make just to become a little bit better.”

The Summer Games will be like a sixth major this season. Henderson said she’s still stunned that she’ll get to enjoy the Olympic experience and represent her country.

“It’s kind of both ways,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really surreal, and other times it’s like, ‘You know what, I can go and win there.”’

Henderson added she feels more mature now and is getting used to the extra attention from fans and media. She’s trying to take it all in and really enjoy the experience.

“It’s gone by super fast,” she said. “I’ve been able to travel all around the world and go see a ton of different places and play a lot of really good golf on a lot of really good golf courses. So it’s been a lot of fun.

“I’m definitely living the dream. But it’s nice to back home.”