Last year, Russell Henley had an exciting ride at the Georgia Amateur Championship.
He won the tournament by one shot on his home course in front of a large gallery of friends and family. And he beat his college teammate in a thrilling final-round showdown to claim the championship.
But none of that will really matter as Henley tries to defend his championship today through Sunday at the Country Club of Columbus.
“It will be cool to be the defending champion and all that, but it all starts over,” said Henley, a Stratford product who just completed his sophomore year at Georgia. “It’s not like I’m in the lead or anything like that. I’m not going to stress over it too much or think about trying to defend. I just want to go out and play well and see what happens.”
That game plan worked to perfection last year.
Henley rallied from a four-shot deficit midway through the final round at Idle Hour Club to beat defending champion Harris English by one shot. Henley had a final-round 69 to set a Georgia Amateur scoring record for four rounds.
Henley and English, who are teammates at Georgia, both started the final round at 9 under. Henley finished at 10-under-par 270 after four rounds in the 60s, and English finished at 9 under.
Now, Henley will try to become the first player since Carter Mize in 1993-94 to repeat as the tournament champion.
“It’s a new tournament this year,” Henley said. “The goal isn’t to repeat. It’s to win this tournament.”
The Georgia Amateur is just one of the several tournaments Henley has entered this summer. His busy slate will include trying in August to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which will be played in late August at Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma.
“You just keep trying to improve and work on things,” Henley said. “If you struggle, you just keep thinking back to when things went well and have good feelings and positive feedback for your game.”