Henley’s friends enjoy Masters experience

dshirleymacon.comApril 10, 2014 

Russell Henley tees off on 1 during the first round of the 2014 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF)

JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF

AUGUSTA -- There were plenty of cheers of “Let’s go Russell” and “Go Dogs” on Thursday in the first round of the Masters.

And right in the middle of that was Russell Henley’s family and friends.

Taylor and Jon Adams, Hampton Vernon and Matthews Barnett were among the group of fans taking in Henley’s day at Augusta National Golf Club. He finished with a round of 1-over-par 73, five shots behind leader Bill Haas.

Barnett used to attend the Masters with Henley when they were younger, along with Barnett’s brother, Madison. Matthews Barnett went to Stratford and graduated the year before Henley.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Barnett said. “To realize we all used to come here and idolize the players here, and now he’s playing here, it’s just hard to believe sometimes. But he’s playing great, and he has proven he belongs out here.”

Vernon also played for the Stratford golf team with Henley, and they won a couple of GISA titles. Vernon said he had known Henley since “I was about 4 years old.” The two of them graduated from Stratford the same year.

“I’ve known him my whole life, and we used to always joke about playing at the Masters,” Vernon said. “He was the reason we won two state titles, for sure. In college, you never know what’s going to happen, but he took a step up from amateur golf to college, and then he took another step up when he got out here. And he’s been ready for every step.”

Henley is making his second appearance in the tournament. He missed the cut last year.

“This year is different,” Vernon said. “Last year, was just so amazing with it being that first time with him here, and it was fun. It feels like he’s supposed to be here ... like he belongs. But I’m not surprised. This is what he’s always wanted.”

Taylor and Jon Adams went to FPD, and Taylor Adams said they met Henley through the Barnett family. Taylor Adams pointed to Henley’s work ethic, which he said was evident years ago, for the success he has had, including two wins on the PGA Tour in his young career.

“I was always trying to pull him away to go do something else, and he’d say, ‘No, I have to practice,’ ” Taylor Adams said. “His work ethic has always been unbelievable, and he has the talent to go with it. There’s no doubt about that.”

That work ethic always has included a focus on getting to the Masters. Henley achieved that last year when he shot rounds of 72-81 in his first appearance.

He enters this year’s second round tied for 27th, and he is playing with former Georgia teammate Harris English and Englishman Lee Westwood. Henley’s parents and brother Adam were also in the gallery, along with Georgia golf head coach Chris Haack and many other Henley and Georgia fans.

“It’s wild. This place is so majestic, and the history of it is just overwhelming,” Jon Adams said. “And to know that a friend of yours is out here playing just blows you away. I remember practicing putting at Idle Hour one time, and he had a 15-foot putt, and he said, ‘This is to win the Masters.’ And now, he’s out here playing? It’s unreal.”

Henley certainly appreciated all the support. When he was asked how many “Go Dogs” he heard throughout Thursday’s round, he said, “I wish I had a dollar for every one. I’d be a millionaire.”

Henley’s highlights

A quick look at Russell Henley’s opening round at the Masters on Thursday.

* Henley fired a 1-over-par 73.

* He is tied for 27th, five shots behind leader Bill Haas.

* The round included one birdie, two bogeys and 15 pars.

* The birdie came on No. 15.

* The round finished with a par on No. 18 after a nice chip from off the green to set up a short putt to end the day.

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