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Brittany Henderson hasn’t missed a week on younger sister Brooke’s bag since February 2016. That will change this week at the Meijer LPGA Classic after Brittany’s visa expired on June 15.
Brooke, a two-time winner of the Meijer (2017 and 2019), must meet the challenge of a new face on the bag as well as changes to the course as she looks to defend her title. (The Meijer was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
“You know, I’m definitely sad that Brit is not with me on the bag this week,” said Brooke. “Definitely be a big change. I think the main thing this week is to try to keep things simple and have fun on a golf course that I’ve played really well on before.”
Brittany married Zach Sepanik, who hails from Grand Rapids, in September of last year and applied for new immigration status. Sepanik works for the LPGA’s communications team and is back home this week at the Meijer. The couple bought a house in Naples, Florida, after they wed and have been working with Senator Marco Rubio’s office to expedite the paperwork.
“Brooke knows how to play really well at this course,” said Brittany. “It’s tough for me to sit back and not do much, but I think they’ve got it handled.”
Brooke will have veteran looper Everette Nini on the bag this week.
“Everette is a good friend,” said Brooke, “and he’s lots of fun to be around, so I think he will definitely make the change a little bit easier.”
Brooke Henderson of Canada poses with the championship trophy during the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club on June 18, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The Meijer has been a special tournament for the Hendersons – there’s even a Brooke Henderson Lane – with Brooke having won twice on Father’s Day. Dave Henderson is Brooke’s instructor, but their work together at tournaments has been done remotely since the pandemic. Brittany, a former Symetra Tour player, has stepped in to help, particularly on the greens.
In April, Brooke ended a victory drought that dated back to June 2019 in show-stopping fashion at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, toppling No. 1-ranked Jin Young Ko, Jessica Korda and Hannah Green at historic Wilshire Country Club with a closing 67 to collect her 10th LPGA title.
Henderson said the feel at Blythefield Country Club reminds her of home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, the trees and weather in particular. This marks the first week on the LPGA that there are no limits when it comes to the number of fans allowed on property and plenty will be out following the winningest Canadian player.
No player on the LPGA has won more than once in 2021. For Henderson to three-peat at the Meijer, she’ll need to adjust her strategy.
“A few tee shots are definitely more challenging with where they placed the bunkers,” she said of the course changes. “(Nos.) 18, 9, and 2 sort of come to mind with the way the bunkers kind of jut in so it bottlenecks the fairway. I used to cut some corners and take sort of aggressive lines on those holes where I can’t really do that anymore. … They’re definitely making it harder on me, but I’m excited for the challenge. I love this place.”