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A year a long time in golf for Henderson

THIS time last year Brooke Henderson faced the prospect of caddying at the Portland Classic. Now she is the defending champion.

THEY say a week is a long time in politics but a year in golf is like an eternity.

12 months ago this week's defending champion Brooke Henderson faced the prospect of carrying her sister's bag in the Portland Classic if she didn't survive Monday qualifying.

Fast forward to today and not only did Henderson make the 2015 field, she went on to claim her first LPGA title, has ascended to World Number Two and is a major winner.

And sister Brittany now carries her equipment.

“Last year coming here I didn't know if I was going to be in the tournament. I had to Monday qualify,” she said in her pre-tournament press conference this week.

“If I didn't, I had to caddie for my sister. That was really the big motivation for me to qualify. I didn't want to carry that bag. Then we both were in in the field. It was so much fun.”

Fun doesn't begin to describe what Henderson has achieved since. When she triumphed at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club last year she was a 17-year-old who was ineligible to even be a member of the LPGA Tour because of her age.

The victory saw Commissioner Mike Whan grant her a special dispensation to join and she has been a force in the women's game ever since.

With 10 top 10 finishes in 17 starts, a major victory at the Women's PGA Championship and more than $1 million in earnings in 2016, Henderson will start favourite this week in a field that is somewhat weakened as many of the Tour's top players prepare for next week's US Women's Open.



It's a tag she's comfortable with, particularly on a course she likes and in conditions she relishes.

“I love tree-lined courses and bent grass, or something close to bent grass,” she said of what the players will face this week in Oregon.

“It's kind of what I grew up on back home. I just really like the feel, too. I like the temperature. Sometimes cooler; have to wear a sweater sometimes.

“Just the whole atmosphere. Sometimes it's cloudy and a little bit rainy. Again, I really enjoy playing in that kind of weather.

“Coming here last year the course really fit my eye and I was able to play really well. I think that gave me a lot of good momentum and good vibes knowing I was playing in the Northwest just a few weeks ago at Sahalee.”

Henderson and World Number Nine Stacy Lewis are the only two world top 10 ranked players teeing up which presents a great opportunity for Australia's four representatives.

Minjee Lee and Su Oh have elected not to play meaning Karrie Webb, Katherine Kirk, Sarah Kemp and Sarah Jane Smith will fly the Australian flag in Portland.

For Webb it is a last minute chance to try to earn her way back into the Australian Olympic team after being overtaken in the world rankings by rising teen star Oh several weeks ago.

Webb, who has admitted publicly she is only playing a full schedule this season in an attempt to qualify for Rio, has fallen 18 places behind the Victorian and is in need of something close to a miracle.

A victory this week would be a good start and not necessarily beyond Webb despite a run of recent poor form.

She has six top 10s at this course in 17 appearances and the added motivation of an Olympic berth could well spur her on to great things.

For Kirk and Kemp in particular there is some urgency to post good results with both presently sitting outside the top 100 on the money list and in danger of losing full playing rights for 2017.



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