Many golf fans glued to the U.S. Open had reason to flip over to women's golf Sunday afternoon to watch Canadian teenager Brooke Henderson earn the first victory of her LPGA season.
The native of Smiths Falls, Ont., put an end to any talk that she may be in a sophomore slump by shooting a bogey-free round to jump over Sunday leader Lexi Thompson and win the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Nineteen-year-old Henderson shot a three-under-par 66 to finish 17-under for the tournament and lock up her fourth LPGA victory. She did so under windy conditions at Blythefield Country Club, with Thompson and Michelle Wie both nipping at her heels. The two Americans finished tied for second at 15-under.
Henderson had become the world's No. 1 amateur and LPGA winner in 2015, then followed that up with a sensational rookie season on the tour. In 2016, she barnstormed for two victories.
She became the first Canadian woman in 48 years to win an LPGA major – as well as the youngest ever on tour. She soared as high as No. 2 in the women's world golf rankings.
By comparison, she had been having a quiet start to her 2017 campaign, with just two top-10 finishes before Sunday. She hadn't won since July, when she repeated as the Cambia Portland Classic champ.
She left the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ont., last weekend with an 11th-place finish, but insisted to the press that her game was "so close to being so, so great."
In Grand Rapids, she provided the proof.
She and her parents, Dave and Darlene, and her older sister Brittany (also her caddy) all made the long drive together from Ontario to Grand Rapids on Monday. But before hopping in the car, the busy young athlete spent half the morning shooting a TV commercial with fellow BioSteel athletes Andrew Wiggins, Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin and Rosie MacLennan.
Henderson arrived in Michigan late Monday ranked No. 15 in the world.
She jumped out into the lead in Grand Rapids and held it after Thursday and Friday's rounds. The course had been reduced to a par 69 – the fifth hole was played as a par three instead of a par five – in the final two rounds because of flooding.
She came into Sunday one shot back of Thompson, a U.S. star who sits No. 4 in the world and won the same event in 2015. Thompson had fallen just shy last week in Cambridge, where she lost in a playoff to Ariya Jutanugarn.
Henderson seized the lead back by breaking an eight-way tie for first with back-to-back birdies on seven and eight, and the lead held. She hit 11 of 12 fairways and missed only two greens all day. The winner's share of the $2-million (U.S.) purse was $300,000.
"Just super excited right now," Henderson said. "It's really cool to be able to make those putts under pressure. The leaderboard is packed. There are so many great names up there, so to finish on top is really exciting."
The four Hendersons snapped an ecstatic family photo together on the course after the victory. The win was a Father's Day gift for the man who also acts as her coach.
"This morning he said, 'Do it for me,' so this is definitely for him," Henderson said. "Yeah, he's my coach, my best friend and a great father. So thank you, Dad."
After playing every event of the season so far, Henderson plans to take this week off. She'll get a chance to play very close to home in late August when the LPGA visits Ottawa for the CP Women's Open.