Lance Ringler’s College Golf Page
MACON, Ga. – Russell Henley’s resume is perhaps second to none in college golf.
Reigning Golfweek Player of the Year, All-American, SEC champion and prime-time exposure this summer as co-low amateur at the U.S. Open.
So why all of the uncertainty?
“I’m trying to make everything a little too perfect,’’ he said. “And that’s what I’m struggling with now.’’
Russell Henley’s struggles would be any other golfer’s envy.
Henley, playing in his hometown, pulled away from the Brickyard Collegiate Championship field Oct. 10, shooting 4-under 68 for a 10-under 206 total and four-shot victory.
Georgia (857) edged hard-charging Augusta State, which shot a final-round 13-under 275, by one stroke for the team title. Runner-up Carter Newman (69–210) led the Jaguars, who return all five starters from last season’s NCAA champions.
Third-place Florida State’s Brooks Koepka (71) tied for third at 211 with Texas-Arlington’s Zack Fischer (69).
Fourth-place Georgia Tech (867) had three top 10s, as Kyle Scott (73) shot 212 to tie for fifth, and John Tyler Griffin (69–213) and James White (70–213) shared eighth.
Ole Miss’ Billy Brozovich posted the low round of the tournament, a final-round 65, and finished T-5 at 212.
As good as it got for Henley – 10 under for the final two rounds after a sluggish opening-round 72 on the rolling 7,128-yard Brickyard at Riverside course – he still found himself searching.
“He’s been battling a little indecision,’’ said Bobby Hix, Henley’s swing coach at nearby Idle Hour Country Club. “It comes more from trying to be too perfect. We’re just trying to simplify the target, hit to the middle of the green and putt to the corners.’’
Henley adopted a pre-shot routine of crossing his chest with the club and turning his shoulders, as a reminder of the proper swing motion.
“My main thing today was turning my shoulders,’’ Henley said. “As soon as I started doing that, I started hitting the ball really well.
“I know the reason that I was playing well was because I was doing a good routine.’’
Before the final round, Henley and Hix worked on a mental reminder that would allow the Georgia senior to pull the trigger on his shot. While standing behind the line of his putt, Henley would tap his right side three times: the “go’’ signal.
“He’s worked hard on his putting – more on rhythm,’’ said Hix, who followed in Henley’s gallery. “I like that he’s sticking with his routine on the putting green.’’
Two under through 11 holes, including five clutch par saves, Henley fired up his hometown crowd with a hole-out from 30 yards for eagle-3 at the 12th. From there, the only uncertainty was the team title.
“We knew it was a big hurdle,” said Augusta State’s Newman, whose Jags started the day 12 shots back.
Georgia’s No. 5 man, freshman Keith Mitchell, birdied the 18th hole to shoot 70. Four groups later, Henley would seal the victory with a two-putt par on the uphill 495-yard hole.
Georgia coach Chris Haack, holding the hardware that represented his school-record 45th career victory, said this was a good early test.
“We’re still trying to find our 4 and 5 spots, but we’ve got some good things. Keith Mitchell came through big for us today,” he said.
Haack’s top spot is solid, though, with Henley.
“We’ve got to get to the point where we’re not relying on him to carry us but separate us from the field.’’
After a year in which the Bulldogs did not make the NCAAs, Henley sees some positive signs. Georgia finished sixth at the Carpet Capital and third at the Ping/Golfweek Preview before the Brickyard.
“Last year was disappointing as a team,’’ Henley said. “We did win the SEC Championship, but overall as a year, it was not as good as we wanted it to be. This year, we’ve got three seniors and we seem to be getting back on track.’’
That much seems certain.