It will be a fresh start and a circle almost complete for the US-based Australian Mark Hensby when he makes his return to professional golf in next month’s NSW Open at Twin Creeks Golf and Country Club.
It is the first step on the road back for following his widely publicised 12-month suspension, and also a return to the tournament where the 47-year-old made his debut as a teenager back in 1987.
“A lot of people don’t realise, but it was the first professional event I ever played in," Hensby said.
“I was only 15 at the time, and I qualified by winning one of the regionals as an amateur.
“I remember it vividly, at The Australian. I played with Roger Mackay the first two rounds. Craig Parry won. I think even Lee Trevino played that year."
As a golf-mad teenager growing up in Tamworth, NSW, Hensby dreamed of playing his home State Open and competing against the biggest names in Australian golf.
“We knew how big the State Opens were back then. The NSW Open was a huge event to play in back then, right beside the Australian Open."
Hensby managed plenty of soul-searching during his enforced lay off from the sport, and it didn't take long before he confronted the reality of what lay ahead if he wanted to compete again at the highest level.
“When I got 12 months (suspension) I was a bit shocked to be honest, but I sat back and tried to figure what I wanted to do; did I want to continue to pursue a career in golf?
“After a few months, I realised golf is my life. I’ve played it my whole life, and it’s all I want to do.”
After making a move to the United States to pursue a career as a touring professional in the 1990s, Hensby learnt along the way the resolve needed to succeed, and he is under no illusions of what it will take to climb the ladder once more.
“I went back to working on the things I did when I was playing well. I had got away from all of that. I know I have got to get back to being the player I was, and stop trying to be somebody else,” he added.
“As long as I stay in shape and keep my mind fresh, I don’t see why I can’t compete.” – Mark Hensby
Working hard, however, is just a part of the puzzle, and at 47 Hensby understands he needs to think a whole lot smarter in his approach to the sport as his comeback begins. Advice from some of the game’s legends along the way has helped his cause.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of the older guys. Hale Irwin in particular has been a lot of help.
“’I've got to practice smarter because I can’t do what I used to do.
“I hate to say it, but we are all getting older. My body can’t take the amount of golf balls I used to hit to get to where I did before.
“As long as I stay in shape and keep my mind fresh, I don’t see why I can’t compete."
Hensby also knows if his game is on point, the age barrier won’t matter too much.
“When you see someone like Peter Senior win three of Australia’s major championships aged over 50, you know you can compete against the young guys.
“Your golf clubs don't know how old you are,” he smiled.
– Golf NSW