“I remember we would walk up to the ropes and we’d touch the grass with our hands,” Henley said. “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. And being so close to home, it was just the biggest deal for me to get to go.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the rookies after just one week, and Henley knows that from experience.
He remembers waking up in Bogota, Colombia, for the opening event of the Web.com Tour, ready to rush into the first of 26 tournaments over eight months, looking at that first round in February like the last round in October. He shot 79-71 and missed the cut, and it wasn’t long before he realized golf really is a marathon.
That much hasn’t changed.
J.B. Holmes won the Phoenix Open four tournaments into his rookie season, and while Henley turned heads in Hawaii with his putting, Holmes overwhelmed them in the desert with his sheer power. Six years later, he has two PGA Tour wins (both in the Phoenix Open) and has yet to record a top 10 in a major.
The last PGA Tour rookie to play in the Masters was Jhonattan Vegas, who won the Bob Hope Classic two years ago with flair and passion. He tied for third the next week at Torrey Pines, and has had only four top 10s on tour since.
This was only one week for Henley, as astounding as it was. He showed up in Waikiki Beach expecting good things to happen because of how he had been playing, not knowing it would come so quickly. He left for the airport in a limousine with a tweet that started, “In complete shock.”
Even so, rookies are on the rise. It was only a few years ago that Rickie Fowler made the Ryder Cup team as a PGA Tour rookie, and then won the last three holes to win his singles match and give the Americans momentary hope.
Not only are they good players, they handle themselves well.
“Two very nice guys that I played with. Scott, too, had a great week, and I just enjoyed their company,” Clark said. “I think the tour can be proud that these are the young people that are coming out here now.”
It might have helped that Henley and Langley played all four rounds together. They are close friends, dating to when they shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open and then flew next to each to Northern Ireland the next day for the Palmer Cup. They took a golfing trip with friends to Sea Island a year later.
There was a light moment Saturday night when they were tied for the lead. Langley was the first to the press room, and when Henley sat in the chair, he realized that Langley had left his credentials and sunglasses. Langley came back into the group to get his clubs _ he forgot those, too _ when Henley looked across the room and smiled, holding up the other items.
“What a rookie,” he called out to them, and both of them smiled.