Teen Henderson defends LPGA breakthrough title

Brooke Henderson of Canada during the final round of the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic on August 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jonathan Ferrey)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Second-ranked Brooke Henderson defends her first LPGA title this week at the Portland Classic, her breakthrough victory last year helping the Canadian teen return as a major champion.

The 18-year-old qualified for the event on Monday then rolled to an eight-stroke victory, the largest LPGA victory margin since 2012, to become the tour's third-youngest winner ever.

Henderson became the first Canadian to win an LPGA event since Lori Kane in 2001 and only the second Monday qualifier to ever take a title after Laurel Kean in 2000. As a result of all of her superlatives, Henderson was granted immediate membership in the LPGA.

"It was such an amazing week for me and kind of set up my whole career," Henderson said Wednesday. "Gave me LPGA membership, first win on tour, and everything kind of just fell into place, which is truly incredible."

Barely two weeks ago, Henderson won her first major title, defeating New Zealand's Lydia Ko with a birdie on the first playoff hole to capture the Women's PGA Championship.

That made Henderson the second-youngest winner in a women's major tournament and the first Canadian to win a major in 48 years.

"The journey over the last 18 months turning pro and winning here and just a few weeks ago, everything is kind of like living the dream -- just trying to enjoy every moment and soak it all in," Henderson said.

"Last year coming here I didn't know if I was going to be in the tournament. I had to Monday qualify. 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."

Now Henderson's older sister Brittany carries her bag.

"We make such an awesome team," Henderson said. "I don't think the success that we've had this year or even last year could have happened without both of us working together and trying to push each other. We're best friends, sisters, together all the time -- if we can just continue to work really well together, I think good things will happen."

This will be Henderson's seventh week in a row at an event with another major event, the US Women's Open, next week.

"Every week I'm just trying to focus on something and to improve it that week, set miniature goals," she said. "I still have this event, US Open, and then Toledo the next week after. Hopefully I'll have three more solid finishes."

Henderson, who has a tour-best 254 birdies so far this season, missed the cut last week in Arkansas, bringing what was in some ways a much-needed break.

"I think it was a good break," she said. "Obviously disappointed missing the cut, but there was a lot of good players and I just didn't have my best day. Moving forward, I had a good Sunday. We went shopping."

Henderson will play the first two rounds alongside American Morgan Pressel, her final-round playing partner in 2015, and Austin Ernst, the 2014 Portland winner.