Henley blows away field at Georgia Amateur

COLUMBUS — Russell Henley played a round of golf at Idle Hour Club on Tuesday with his brother to help him get ready for the Georgia Amateur Championship at the County Club of Columbus.

After the round, the former Stratford standout and defending Georgia Amateur champion retrieved his trophy to take with him to Columbus.

But Henley only needed to borrow the trophy for four days. He planned on returning it to Idle Hour, where it could stay for another year.

The 20-year-old made good on those plans by dominating the Georgia Amateur like few have ever done, winning the tournament by eight strokes and breaking his own tournament scoring record with a 16-under-par 268. David Noll Jr. finished second a year after finishing third to Henley.

“That was an impressive exhibition of golf that we saw,” said Peter Persons, Henley’s short-game coach and former PGA Tour professional. “His talent is coming out, and it is fun to watch.”

Henley never gave up the lead after taking it early in the third round, a far cry from last year when he rallied on the back nine in the final round to beat Georgia teammate Harris English by a stroke.

English was in the hunt again this year, but Henley kept him and every other contender at bay with his first bogey-free round of the week Sunday. He led by as many as nine strokes in the final round, cruising down the back nine with his sizeable lead.

“Considering keeping the lead and never giving the lead up, not budging at all and never getting away from my game plan, it was the most solid final round I’ve had,” Henley said. “Tee to green, it was the best I’ve played over four days. I honestly thought I was going to make every putt. I trusted myself on every shot (Sunday).”

Henley’s only trouble Sunday came early in the round when a bad chip on the par-5 first hole forced him to make an 8-foot par after English made a birdie to get to 10 under. Henley, who was 12 under at the time, made the par putt, and added another one on No. 2, although it was a much tougher 12-foot putt.

“Those putts absolutely set the tone for the whole round,” said brother and caddie Adam Henley. “But those are the putts he has made all week. Those were key. He was a little nervous before the round, and those tested him and got his confidence where it needed to be.”

So instead of letting English draw within a shot, Henley maintained his two-stroke lead and attacked the par-5 fourth hole with his second shot. He hit it to 10 feet and made his eagle putt to push the lead to four shots. English, who birdied the hole, gave back a shot on No. 5 and never got closer than four shots after that. Henley’s birdies on Nos. 6 and 11 put the tournament out of reach.

“His two putts early were huge, and then his eagle putt really got him a comfortable lead,” English said. “He put a lot of pressure on us and played a great round of golf.”

Following his birdie on No. 11, Henley finished the day with seven consecutive pars.

“He doesn’t press,” longtime coach Bobby Hix said. “He just stays pretty even throughout a round. He never gets too high or too low.”

Henley finished the round by hitting every green in regulation on the final 11 holes and on 14 of his final 16 holes. He hit 11 of 14 fairways in the round. It was a microcosm of his entire week, playing consistently from tee-to-green. He only three-putted once in 72 holes.

Henley said it’s “way too early” to tell if he will try for his third straight state amateur next year in Savannah.