Masters 2013: Getting to know Russell Henley
To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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Age: 23 (turns 24 on April 12)
Hometown: Daniel Island, S.C.
How he qualified for the Masters: Won, Sony Open in Hawaii; top 50 in Official World Golf Ranking on April 1
Russell Henley is playing his first Masters, but he’s familiar with Augusta National’s hallowed grounds. Henley grew up in Macon, Ga., about 120 miles from the club. He used to attend the tournament with two of his high school golf teammates, Matthews and Madison Barnett.
“We'd stop at Krispy Kreme, where I think Phil (Mickelson) had stopped before,” Henley said, referring to Mickelson’s visit to the doughnut shop after his 2010 victory. “I remember we would walk up to the ropes and we'd touch the grass with our hands, and we'd just . . . I remember seeing these rolling hills of green and seeing the guys hit the shots and just being so amazed at the whole experience, the smell, the environment of it, and being so close to home, it was just the biggest deal for me just to get to go.”
Henley, Golfweek’s 2010 College Player of the Year, played Augusta National each year as a member of the University of Georgia’s golf team. The defending Masters champion, Bubba Watson, also attended Georgia.
Henley also was a member of the United States’ 2011 Walker Cup team. His amateur resume portended pro success, but few could predict that Henley would need just one start as a PGA Tour member to qualify for the Masters (he'll celebrate his 24th birthday during the second round). He won his first event this season, the Sony Open. Henley also is No. 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, having also won three times in 31 career Web.com Tour starts. Henley’s impressive rookie run continued when he upset 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel in the first round of this year’s World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play. Henley has made seven of nine cuts in 2013, with three top-25 finishes.
It’s a quick turnaround when you consider where Henley was a year ago. He was 102nd on the Web.com Tour’s money list last July. His season started to turn around with the help of instructor Charles Frost, whom Henley began working with last year. Henley also learned from U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson during casual rounds at Quail Hollow Club, site of the Wells Fargo Championship; Henley and Simpson share an agent, Thomas Parker.
Henley’s work with Frost – which made Henley’s swing less “armsy,” in Henley’s words – paid dividends. In the season’s final four events, Henley won twice and finished no worse than sixth. He finished third on the Web.com Tour money list with $400,116. More than 70 percent of that total came during that impressive final month.
“Nothing surprises me with Russell,” Georgia head coach Chris Haack said. “Last year, when he played so well, he bred a bunch of confidence. When he gets confident, he’s a heck of a player and he knows how to win.”
And now he’s headed to his first Masters.