Its Finally Go Time for Henley


04 Henrico County OpenRICHMOND, Va. -- As you look down the line of players on the range practicing for this week's Henrico County Open at the Dominion Club just outside Richmond, Va., nothing really stands out.
Players bang ball after ball, dressed in their good-enough-for-church golf attire, while their caddies stand quietly behind them. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Until you see a shock of bleach blonde hair down toward the far end of the range.
Kip Henley
Big Break II winner Kip Henley talks with his caddie on the eve of playing in the first of his Nationwide Tour exemptions.
It's Kip Henley, the winner of The Golf Channel's 'Big Break II' series. He, too, is hitting balls, dressed in his own snappy golf attire, and just as assuredly as the rest of the players, his caddie is watching and waiting.
This is where ordinary gets tossed out the golf cart.
For Henley, as he stands alongside these past and future PGA Tour players, it feels as if his name is actually Charlie and he is the lucky holder of the ticket that gives him admittance to the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory that is the Nationwide Tour.
About as down to earth as you can get, and equally self-effacing, Henley is set to embark on his once-in-a-lifetime adventure. An adventure that he heads into with his true personality intact ' modestly and with an air of cautious optimism. And, of course, quick with a comment in which he is usually the butt of his own joke.
Asked about which aspect of his game he is feeling good about heading into Thursdays opening round, Henley replies, I kind of dread every bit of it if I think about it.
But dont be totally fooled by his apparent anguish, as deep down he honestly feels he has the type of game that can match up to his new found brethren.
Obviously the odds are against me, ya know, with me coming into their world, said Henley on the range Wednesday afternoon. But Id like to play good for four days. Maybe even great for one or two of those days. And if I do, then I figure I can get into the top-25.
Henley, who taped the show last summer, had to wait until the final show was aired late in the fall to tell family and friends that he had won. He said that the keeping quiet about his 'Big Break II' victory may have been the most nerve-racking element to this whole process, including his debut this week.
Four and a half months I had to be quiet about it. You could talk about it, but you couldnt give away any of the results. You had to be really, really careful, think before you speak, recalled the 34-year-old married father of two, on the pressures to keep a lid on his windfall. And I was surprised about how many of the guys (PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour players) watched the show.
And then theres Paul Azinger, who watched the show a lot and he would try to get me to spill the beans all the time, trying to get me to tell him (who had won). No one in my family ever knew anything - except for my wife - not my kids or anybody.
And he is certainly happy, finally, to get a chance to show what type of golf he is capable of, especially with all the added attention surrounding him. He says its time to finally tee it up.
Kip Henley
Kip Henley talks with an official after hitting balls on the practice range.
It just takes me one or two good shots under some pressure to get me a little confidence and I can start rolling it no doubt, said Henley on his prospects this week. My game is, I dont know, ego driven or what, but if I hit a couple of good shots and start to feel good about myself, I can go and shoot just as low as any of these guys.
The thing I can do is shoot low numbers. Im comfortable shooting low scores where as some guys might get nervous. I dont do it enough obviously, but I am comfortable shooting some really low numbers.
When told of last year's tour-record winning score of 30 under at this event, Henley gave one of his typical, unpretentious comebacks.
If its going to take 30 under, then something is going to have to happen tonight in my sleep.
Henley, who outlasted nine other competitors in the second installment of The Golf Channels popular reality series, has earned exemptions to play in four Nationwide Tour events: this weeks Henrico County Open (Richmond, Va.), the LaSalle Bank Open (Chicago, Ill.), the Lake Erie Charity Classic (Erie, Pa.) and the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic (Bridgeport, W. Va.). He has also received sponsors exemptions into the Chattanooga Classic (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and the Knoxville Open (Knoxville, Tenn.).
On top of that, he also has qualified for next weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic in his home state of Tennessee.
Everybody has been more than kind, they've all been really good about it, said Henley on his reception from the players, caddies and the numerous volunteers milling about the course. Im really looking forward to it.
The Golf Channel will begin coverage from The Dominion Club in Richmond, Va., Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (ET), running through Sunday.
Related links:
  • Kip Henley's Scorecard
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Big Break II Home
  • Kip's Big Break Diary
  • Full Coverage - Henrico County Open