The horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School jolted the nation, but it hit extremely close to home for Connecticut native, J.J. Henry.
To honor those who died in the December 14 slaughter at the Newtown school, Henry played Thursday’s pro-am kickoff to this week’s season-opening Tournament of Champions wearing a cap with “S.H.E.S.” on the front where a sponsor’s insignia would normally appear.
”A couple people have asked what the letters stand for, and a few others have figured it out,” Henry told the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson. ”It’s a way to help remember and think about the families.”
Henry, who captured his first tour win in Hartford in 2006, donned the hat on the day that some 400 surviving students happened to go back to school at a different facility in a neighboring town — one where the 37-year-old played youth basketball. He’ll continue wearing it all weekend at Kapalua and hopes to expand on his small expression of support.
”This is just a way to honor those families. And growing up there — to have something happen like it did, you’re almost at a loss for words,” said Henry, who won his state’s amateur crown three times. ”Being the first tournament of the year, in a beautiful place like Hawaii, a lot of those people are cooped up in their houses in freezing cold or snow. If they happen to be a golf fan and see it, maybe that could say that all PGA Tour players are thinking about them.”
Henry, whose 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open victory earned him a spot in the 30-player winners-only field at Kapalua, said he planned to work with Nathan Grube, tourney director of Connecticut’s Travelers Championship on additional remembrances. One idea may be to add a skybox for Sandy Hook families at this summer’s event at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
The two-time tour winner’s own foundation, The Henry House, will also honor the 20 kids and six adults who died that day at the hands of a gunman. He hoped, as well, that his gesture would spark discussion on Golf Channel, which, along with NBC, will broadcast this week’s event.
”People know who I am in Connecticut,” Henry said. ”If I happen to get on TV and hit some good shots, and if Golf Channel talks about it — it’s not about me. I just wanted to do something as someone who grew up there and went to those schools. If Golf Channel can talk about the whole PGA Tour family, we all feel the same way. I think that’s what we’re all after.”
Henry, who lives in Texas, told McCabe he had to do something to call attention to what happened.
“Sitting at home, I thought if I could be a small part in honoring those families, I wanted to do that,” Henry said. “I went to that school system. I’ve always remembered where I came from.”
His family still lives in Connecticut and his aunt resided for years around the corner from the Newtown school.
“Whether you come from the area or not, just the devastation and the unthinkable that happened –,” said Henry, who’s from Fairfield, some 20 miles from the Newtown school. “It’s almost too hard to talk about.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer