Henderson breaking out in amateur tourneys

Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 12:19am

For Carter Henderson, there were a couple of vivid, painful memories he had when he first started playing competitive golf.

Henderson, 24, who has blazed his way to become one of Nashville’s top amateur golfers, began playing tournaments when he was about 10 or 11 years old.

“My first summer of playing competitively, I won two tournaments. And it should have been three,’’ he said, recalling the first memory. “On the last hole, I had a one-shot lead and my ball was just a couple of inches from the hole.

“I walked up and chipped the ball to the cup, and it missed going in. I wound up losing in a playoff. I never did that again,’’ he said. “Also, that first summer, I had my clubs stolen. I had to borrow some from my dad to play the tournament.’’

Since those mishaps, Henderson has gone on to a blossoming career.

Most recently, he won the James Fyke Municipal Amateur Championship 10 days ago at Harpeth Hills, carding a 201, three-day score, 15 under par. He fired a personal best 63 in the opening round and won the event by five strokes.

Just Tuesday, Henderson finished in a tie for second, only one shot behind the winner, in the amateur division of the two-day Bluegrass Invitational in Hendersonville, shooting a 70-73-143, one under.

He’s in the mold of his father, Tom, a star basketball player at BGA, and his grandfather, the late Tom Sr., a standout hoops player at Vanderbilt where he was team captain in 1933. It was his grandfather, later his father, who helped shape his game.

In high school, Henderson played at MBA, then signed on for MTSU his first two years, then later graduated from Virginia in 2006.

He has played in the shadow of his former MBA teammate Brandt Snedeker. one of the PGA tour leaders in both ranking and prize money. Henderson, who finished at MBA in 2001, was two grades behind Snedeker, 26.

“I’m often asked if I ever played him, and I never did,’’ said Henderson. “He played No. 1 and I was about No. 4-5 at that time. I need to call him and kind of catch up.’’

Henderson left MTSU after his sophomore year, noting, “I wasn’t getting any better, my game hadn’t improved. I was averaging just about one-tenth of a stroke better than high school, and I dropped out of school for a year.

Asked how he wound up at Virginia, Henderson said, “I played in the Eastern Amateurs in Norfolk, Va., that summer. They had six players from UVA in that tourney, and I beat them all. The coach noticed and, although he didn’t have a scholarship left, I got some academic help.’’

Since finishing at Virginia with a degree in economics, Henderson had some bad luck last year, suffering a torn ACL playing basketball and later injuring his arm.

Next big goal is trying to win the state amateur on his home Belle Meade Country Club course Aug. 15-18.

The wiry 6-1, 160-pound Henderson was a top pitcher in youth baseball. At MBA, he was an excellent basketball player, playing on two straight DII state championship teams his junior, then senior year when he made all tournament.

But golf was his calling. He still has dreams of playing on the pro tour, like his former teammate Snedeker, but he knows that’s a long shot.

“Guys like me are a dime a dozen,’’ said Henderson, who will play in the first of hopefully four qualifying stages for the PGA tour Sept. 18-21 in Bogart, Ga.

“Winning the Municipal felt good,’’ he said. “It was a real boost, kind of giving me some needed confirmation.’’

Which, at this point, he certainly has.

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