27th – 29th October, 2023, Thurgoona Country Club

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Hayes: A Dream 35 Years In The Making

Adam Henwood on the way to victory over his heroes, Peter Lonard and Peter O'Malley

Adam Henwood waited 35 years for this moment.

And even then, it was so much better than he’d ever dared to imagine.

Henwood, 52, already relishing a breakout year on the PGA Legends Tour, took it a step further today by winning his first state championship, the New South Wales Senior Open at Thurgoona Country Club.

But while the scoring and title were important, they both paled against the “big picture” of what he REALLY achieved.

The Victorian journeyman was talented enough to make the fields of national Open and PGA championships in his mid-to-late 20s.

But for a “whole heap of reasons”, this self-modelled didgeridoo master – yep, both shaping and playing – was forced away from golf for almost 15 years.

His body failed him and it was impossible for Henwood to compete at any level, let alone against a generation of legends in the making of his era.

So to get it all together physically and qualify for the Legends Tour was a feat in itself.

But surely, to stand on the first tee in the final group of an event of this magnitude would find Henwood wanting. Surely.

Or what about the mind-bending reality of having to share that group with two genuine golf icons in Peter Lonard and Peter O’Malley, both of whom have climbed almost every mountain possible in Australia and around the world.

Surely Henwood would buckle, right?

Not. On. Your. Life.

Lonard threw a birdie punch on the first, which Henwood fended off and responded with his own on the fourth.

O’Malley countered with back-to-back birdies on the sixth and seventh; Henwood punched back with his own brace on the seventh and eighth, the latter with a signature laser approach from 150m into a strong wind to inside a metre.

In fact, every time he was threatened, Henwood landed a more telling counter blow.

For someone who had been there a thousand times, it would have been impressive.

For someone doing it for the very first time, it was a dead-set virtuoso performance.

Metaphorically only, Henwood stared down his idols, then put on a clinic for them.

“They’re heroes of mine,” he said with great humility after his three-shot victory.

“To play with them was great, then to beat them … I can’t believe it. It just couldn’t feel any better.”

So did it cross Henwood’s mind through his round that he was mixing it with the greats.

“Yeah, of course, but I just thought, `Stick to your game, you’re hitting it great’,” he said.

“I put pressure on them, not them on me.

“I wasn’t fazed.

“I just went one shot at a time, just really enjoyed it and then just keep hitting good shots.”

Asked if might one day reminisce about the day he showed the “big boys” that he was their peer, Henwood politely defused even the vaguest suggestion of self-grandeur.

“I might one day look back and think I was their equal – but ONLY for the day.

“But my career is nonsense compared to those boys. They’re heroes, legends of the game, great players, world-class players.

“I am NOT a world-class player, but who knows where we go from here.

“It opens up doors and gives me a lot of confidence that I have never had in my entire career.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever been out there thinking, `I got this’. All day I thought, `I got this’.

“And I just keep hitting these shots, I just had it.

“I’ve never felt that before, it was great.

“It was absolutely amazing.

“It was awesome and I loved every bit of it.”

That, right there, is the joy of not only golf, but sport more broadly.

Henwood’s passion and dreams finally bearing fruit.

The pain of 35 years of tumult washed away in one genuinely blissful afternoon.

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