An Impressive Underdog Pro Golfer: His Inspiring Story, His Clutch Plays, and His Go-To Equipment

By Kevin Arnold | Outdoor Sports

Apr 06
An Impressive Underdog Pro Golfer1

Sports fans are often intrigued by underdog tales and success stories that sort of add a unique twist to the whole landscape of competition. Essentially, this type of journey is sweeter, more fulfilling considering a player, has gone from a relative unknown to a somewhat household name. Take PGA Tour golfer, Russell Henley, for instance.

Amateur Background

Born in the quiet city of Macon, Georgia, Russell Henley like many professional golfers nurtured his love for the game at a young age. He went on to play college golf for four years at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he won the 2010 Haskins Award for the most outstanding collegiate golfer.

Henley went on to capture the Stadion Classic at UGA on the Nationwide Tour, a feat that made him only the second amateur to win that particular tour. In addition, he represented the United States at the Palmer Cup and the Walker Cup.

Turning Pro

After wrapping up his university stint and his amateur career, Russell Henley turned pro. He made his debut at the Nationwide Tour’s Soboba Golf Classic in September of 2011. One year later, he bagged the Chiquita Classic, beating the likes of Patrick Cantlay and Morgan Hoffmann in a playoff.

Henley has built up a reputation of having a knack for being clutch during tense situations. In October 2012, he won his second title of the year at the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open by making a 25-foot putt for birdie on the 72nd hole, which forced a playoff against B.J. Staten. From there, he graduated from the Tour (known formerly as the Nationwide Tour) to the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour Start

With a record-setting performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January 2013, Russell Henley became the first PGA Tour rookie in 12 years to win his debut, after finishing at a then record of 256 (-24). The win gave him a ticket to the 2013 Masters and PGA Championship.

Carrying significant momentum, Henley claimed his second PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic in Florida in March 2014, where he beat Russell Knox, Ryan Palmer, and – arguably the biggest name on the list – Rory McIlroy. His professional career rather plateaued from there, as he constantly missed the mark in major championships and failed to break through the top rankings.


Russell Henley has been a true revelation on the course, especially in this famous Texan city fairway, in early 2017. Houston, according to Play Your Course, has an outstanding golf scene thanks to its relaxed year-round climate and the number of players in the area. Additionally, it’s the site where Henley surprised all onlookers by winning the coveted Shell Houston Open.

Golf Week reported how Henley finished the Texas tournament in impressive fashion, making 10 birdies under a scorching 7-under 65 to cap off the event. What’s more remarkable is that the 27-year-old pro started the day four shots back from the leader. With the astonishing win, he earned a final spot in the Masters, a major tournament in his home state of Georgia, and a place in August’s PGA Championship.

What’s Inside the Bag

To a certain extent, some can credit Russell Henley’s success to his advanced golfing equipment. For his driver, he has used a 9.5-degree, AD GT-7X shaft Nike VR_S for more than a year now. According to him, the club helps him during pressure-packed situations down the stretch.

His go-to fairway wood, on the other hand, is a 13-degree, Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana blue Board shaft Nike SQ Sumo 3-wood. Henley has been using it since he was 18-years-old. In addition, he also has his trusted 18-degree, Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Shaft Nike VR Pro Hybrid. For his putter, the Georgia native utilizes a Nike Method 006 prototype, a duplicate of his favorite back in the day.

All things considered, whether having a chip on his shoulder, or making clutch shots down the stretch, or having state-of-the-art golfing equipment in his bag, Russell Henley has an “it” factor that will – eventually – boost him up the rankings. If his amazing Shell Houston Open run to start the year is just a precursor, golf fans can expect more great things to come from him throughout the tour.