This past Monday, I was able to play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open Monday Pro-Am with my father and a business friend. The day started early, with us arriving to the course at 7 a.m.
After entering the club house, I bumped into Kevin Streelman at the omelet bar. My team then selected Russell Henley as the first draft pick, and we headed to the expansive practice range at TPC Scottsdale.
Monday had bizarre weather for Phoenix, with a forecast of 50s and rain. As expected, very few pros were out this early in the morning on this gloomy and unpleasant day. Although it was pouring and windy, just getting to stand inside the ropes and watch those guys hit balls made it worthwhile. Among the few to brave the early morning winds and downpours were Jesper Pavernik, Kevin Streelman, Charlie Beljan, and William McGirt.
On the course, where I made sure to capture tons of video, it was fun to get to get to know Russell and watch him play the course for his first time ever. I’m pretty sure he ended up shooting one-under, with two bogeys and three birdies. In a pro-am, it is typical for your professional to keep the score for all four players, hence why I am not 100 percent positive on his score.
As I soon found out, Russell is a very mellow and a laidback dude. On the first hole, after a member of our foursome pushed his shot to the right into the houses, Russell looked back at him and said:
“That’s awesome! That takes some serious effort!”
On No. 15, a par 5, another amateur in our group hit his ball to the right, which promptly took a huge bounce off of one of the rocks lining the fairway. While it was in the air, Russell started to root for the ball, counting how many times it would hit another rock:
“Go, go, go… One…Two…Three Rocks! Man, that’s impressive! You hit that ball 400 yards!”
As we walked to the famous tee at No. 16, which is surrounded in grandstands, Russell was seemingly more nervous than we were, possibly explaining why his shot landed on the back left — he was fueled by adrenaline.
As a player, Henley is very consistent. While on this particular day he tended to lose his approach shots a few yards to the right, he always got up and down, with good chipping and great putting within 5 to 10 feet. With the driver in hand, Henley isn’t one of the longest players on Tour — he currently ranked No. 46 on Tour with an average of 296.4 yards. But his drives tend to be very accurate, something that was a huge factor in his win earlier this season at the Sony Open. His caddy, Todd Gjesvold, recalled another reason for Henley’s great performance in Hawaii – he jokingly told me that one of the big reasons why Russell went on to birdie the final five holes to win was the inspirational pep talk he gave him on the 14th Tee).
Overall, the Pro-Am experience was very cool, and it is definitely something that every golf fan should cross off their bucket list. I made sure to take many videos and pictures; the photos and a video player are below.