I first saw John Henrick play golf at Mississaugua Golf Club at the 1962 CPGA Championship.
The man I caddied regularly for at Summit Golf Club in Richmond Hill, Ont., Mr. Don Yates, gave me a ticket. I was 14 and in my first year of playing golf.
My family lived in nearby Aurora, so I had to take the bus down to the Bay St terminal in Toronto and then get on another bus out to the course. It took hours to get there and even more to get back.
When I was there, I saw the greats — Al Balding, Stan Leonard and George Knudson, but I also saw a guy who stood not much taller than a driver, hitting the most beautiful shots. It was John Henrick.
John played a different style than most of the others. He didn’t have the tall handsome look of Balding or the Popeye arms of Leonard or the exquisite precision of George K.
However, John did something I have learned from him over the years – his ball always “worked toward the hole”.
That might sound silly. Doesn’t everyone try to make their ball work toward the hole? The answer is no. In fact, today’s top players don’t play the game with a style any different than most mid-to-high handicappers. They are just better at it.
Benefitting from incredible launch angles and towering heights, today’s players attack pin locations from an aerial vantage point much like a raw egg dropped from the Goodyear blimp.
Furthermore, pristine fairways encourage extremely high ball spin rates contributing to distance control on well-struck irons.
John’s game is nothing like that.
He doesn’t worm his way around the course hitting grounders, but once his ball lands near a green it begins to follow the terrain.
It weaves its way over the course’s design requests, avoiding problematic features camouflaged by the architect until it locates itself near the hole. His is a ground game. It is an art form.
John is indicative of every top player. His tee shots fly from the clubface with determination until they locate the best position to attack the pin. His iron shots are struck cleanly and with the sole purpose of going into the hole or arranging the best opportunity to attain a low score. His short game and putting are immaculate.
Even at age 83, if you disregard the outcome and try to observe what he is attempting to perform, you will come to realize, as I have, that John Henrick actually “plays” golf.
He doesn’t blast monster drives, gouge irons to lofty heights and hope for the best. He dissects the course, cleverly avoids trouble, controls his ball with fades and draws, low shots and high shots working the terrain until he is within range to get his ball into the hole.
At age 18, John won his first professional championship, the 1948 Montreal Athletic Association Pro-am.
While the image of this event might be of a bunch of guys getting together to play with some amateurs to raise money for a charity like we do today, in 1948, this was one of the most exciting sporting events held in Montreal.
It attracted nationwide interest and was played for a purse of $2,500 which is equal to $150,000 today.
It also attracted the finest players in the area: Bill Kerr Sr., Stan Horne, Pat Fletcher, Jules, Rudy and Roland Huot, Damien Gauthier (all members of the Quebec Golf Hall of Fame) and Stan Kolar.
All of these players travelled to the USA. during the winter to play what was then the formative years of the PGA Tour to compete with the likes of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.
In 1953 and 1954 John won the Ottawa Valley Compton Cup and then in 1955, he won the Quebec PGA Spring Open, one of the most prestigious events contested in the province open to the finest players both in Quebec and Canada.
On the national scene, John won the CPGA Canadian Assistants Championship. This tournament has always had one of the deepest fields in Canadian golf because the champions from each province entered.
His most substantial victory came in the 1952 B&A Bursary Championship. This was equivalent to a national championship because of the size of the purse; the strength of the field and the prestige.
This event had the strongest field in Canada next to the Canadian Open. Club pros, assistant pros and tour pros all came clambering for one of the three spots. Al Balding, Stan Leonard, Jack Kay, Murray Tucker, Dick Borthwick, Bill Kozak, Bob Gray, Gordie Brydson, Moe Norman, Bill Thompson, Frank Whibley. John beat them all.
John also won three PGA of Ontario Senior Championships and was low Canadian in the Canadian Open (Rivermeade Trophy) twice.
Henrick has won professional golf championships in seven different decades. He won when he was 18 and he won when he was 80. No other Canadian has done it.
John Henrick is a gentle man, never boastful, never arrogant and never disrespectful. He is a champion. I’m honored to call him a friend and thrilled he is to be inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame.