It was Henry’s 21st start at his hometown event and while he missed the cut for just the third time since 2002, in one way it was his most memorable appearance. That’s because he got to spend quality time inside the ropes at TPC River Highlands with his pro-am caddie – 14-year-old son Connor.
“I don’t know if he’s quite ready to do it in a (competitive) TOUR event,” laughed Henry, “but that’s why I wanted to get him out there and kind of get the experience inside the ropes in a pro-am. Hopefully, sooner than later, he can do it again.”
Beyond the father-son bonding, Henry fully appreciated what the experience presented. Back in 1998 when Henry, recently graduated from TCU, received a sponsor’s exemption into this tournament and made his PGA TOUR debut in a way that still warms his heart. His father, Ronald J. Henry Jr., caddied for him.
“So, to have things come full circle 21 years later and have my 14-year-old son out here … it’s a big deal.”
Though Henry has settled in Fort Worth, Texas, not far from his beloved TCU campus with his wife, Lee, and two boys, home will always be this New England state. He was a standout athlete in Fairfield, 50 miles south of TPC River Highlands, and everything about golf started with his father and his grandfather, Ronald J. Henry. (Little-known fact, but while he’s forever been called J.J., his real name is Ronald J. Henry 3d.)
J.J.’s grandfather played golf at Fairfield High School alongside a future World Golf Hall of Fame member named Julius Boros, while his father was an accomplished amateur who played six times in The Amateur Championship in the U.K. and twice in the U.S. Amateur. The caddie stuff was handed down. Ronald J. Henry Jr. caddied for his father, then brought J.J. out to The Patterson Club as his caddie.
It was only natural, then, for Ronald J. Henry Jr. to caddie for his son twice in the U.S. Amateur, but most especially here in J.J.’s debut in the Travelers Championship 21 years ago.
Now that Connor has caddied for J.J., even if was the Monday and Wednesday pro-ams, “it puts things in perspective,” said J.J. “I’ve been fortunate to play out here (on the PGA TOUR) 19 straight years, so have boys old enough (younger son Carson is 10) to know what dad does and travel around a bit, it’s kind of cool.”
For all the major championship starts and the Ryder Cup berth he earned in 2006, what the 44-year-old Henry covets about his PGA TOUR career is the association to this tournament. The first of his three PGA TOUR wins came here in 2006 when he took a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s round, shot 67, and finished three ahead of Hunter Mahan and Ryan Moore. Since his 1998 debut, he has only missed it once.
To know that his love of the game was fueled by his father, Henry doesn’t take this time with his boys lightly. Brining Connor to TPC River Highlands as his caddie is “a great way for young kids to learn,” he said. It also feeds a growing thirst.
“He’s kind of got the bug, which is good for me.”
Henry said he always remember a conversation he had years ago with David Toms, who said that his passion for the game was rejuvenated when his son, Carter, showed an interest in golf. “When the kids say, ‘Hey, dad, let’s play,’ it’s good for me. It spurs you on to play and practice.
“We can almost help each other out.”