Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old rising star of Canadian golf has dropped out of the Pan Am Games to play at an LPGA event in Ohio.
In a statement through Golf Canada, the former No. 1 ranked amateur in the world said her aim is to play in as many professional tournaments as possible while she jockeys for a spot on the LPGA tour.
Last week, she won the Symetra Tour’s Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind., which granted her membership to the LPGA’s development circuit.
To win a spot on the LPGA next season, Henderson must finish among the top 10 money earners on the Symetra Tour, or among the top 40 in LPGA winnings when the tour wraps up in November.
Henderson holds the 46th spot in the Rolex World Women’s Golf Rankings and has amassed $317,470 in earnings this year.
“This is an opportunity I cannot pass up,” Henderson said, explaining that she wants to earn her way to the LPGA by winning enough money to get onto the tour, rather than having to enter the circuit’s “qualification school” after she turns 18 this fall.
“As an ambassador for golf in Canada, I am disappointed to miss the Pan Am Games. I am so appreciative for the support I receive every week from Golf Canada and fans across the country. I wish the competitors all the best and look forward to cheering them on.”
Henderson was one of four Canadian golfers —two women, two men —chosen to compete at the Pan Am Games in July. At the time of her selection, she said it was “an honour” to represent her country at the games.
It remains unclear who will take Henderson’s spot alongside Lorie Kane on the women’s golf team at the Pan Ams. But because the event coincides with an LPGA tournament, it will likely be an amateur golfer.
“We are disappointed to lose Brooke Henderson from the Pan Am golf team but we respect the rationale that went into this very difficult decision,” Golf Canada’s chief sport officer Jeff Thompson said in a statement. “We will continue to be a strong supporter in her career.”
The young golfer from Smiths Falls, Ont. has been trying to get her LPGA card since she went pro last December and turned down a scholarship to the University of Florida. She petitioned the LPGA to grant her a special entry exemption — the age of entry to the tour is 18 — but was denied last fall.
Since then, she has relied on sponsorship exemptions and qualifying matches to play in LPGA events. Last week, she won the Symetra Tour’s Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind., which granted her membership to the LPGA’s development circuit.
She also won a guaranteed spot at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio next month, which coincides with the Pan Am golf tournament.
This summer will be the first time that golf is included at the Pan Am Games. The event will take place at the Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham from July 16 to 19.