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John Henrick – Small in Stature But Large in the Canadian Golf Community

John Henrick (right), at his 2014 Ontario Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with Golf Ontario President Jim King. Photo: Golf Ontario

w/ Joe McLean, Flagstick.com

The Canadian golf landscape is full of people who accomplished much in the game but are largely unrecognized. Some don’t seek it. Among them was John Henrick, a Life Member of the PGA of Canada who recently passed away in his 89th year.

In 2014 at the Wooden Sticks Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ontario, John received acclaim and was inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame. He did so alongside Earl Fritz, Dorothy Campbell Hurd Howe and Bob Weeks.

It was at this Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that I was reminded that John Henrick had worked as the golf professional at the Gatineau Golf Club in Aylmer, Quebec from 1953 to 1959.

John’s professional career extended over seven decades with his first win at the age of 18 in 1948. His last win came in 2008 at the age of 80.

Although Mr. Henrick finished his career in Ontario, he got his start in golf in Montreal at the tender age of nine at the Mount Royal Golf Club as a caddie. John played his junior golf at the Montreal Marlboro Golf Club and at the age of 15 was the winner of the PQGA “B” Class Junior Championship.

His introduction to the professional ranks of golf and his first professional win came in 1948 at the age of 18. He was supposed to caddie at the Montreal Athletic Association Pro-Am but instead won the event. As he indicated at the 2014 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, “I went to caddie, but then heard my name called by the pro-shop. Our pro told me I was to fill in for one of the pros. I shot a 74.”

The next year, John became an assistant professional at the Mount Royal course under Jim Anderson. In 1950, John was the winner of the Quebec PGA Assistant’s Championship and the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association Assistant’s Championship. The Canadian Assistant’s Championship was played at the Kingston Cataraqui Golf & Country Club and John finished in first place ahead of Credit Valley’s Al Balding and Bill Thomson. He also qualified for the 1950 Canadian Open held at the Royal Montreal Golf Club.

After three and a half years at Mount Royal, John would become the head professional at the Gatineau Golf Club in Aylmer, Quebec replacing PGA of Canada Master Professional Stan Kolar, who had moved up the road to the Chaudiere Golf and Country Club now known as the Chateau Cartier Resort Golf Club.  

In an April 30, 1955 Ottawa Citizen profile story on Mr. Henrick titled “Henrick Is ‘Baby’ Of Ottawa Professional Family”, John talked about his biggest singular golf performance to that time. He was one of three winners in the B and A Bursary, a CPGA Tournament where the top three Canadian Golf Professionals were awarded funds to allow them to compete on the PGA winter tournament trail in the United States. “That was the thrill of my life,” said Johnny. “I had been down south before, but I always paid my own way.” The other bursary winners in that tournament were Mount Bruno’s Jack Kay and Windsor’s Rudy Horvath. John would also win a bursary in the 1956 tournament.

The introductory lines of that article by Citizen Sports Editor Bernie Nellis tell a lot about John Henrick.

“The Gatineau Golf and Country Club’s Johnny Henrick is the ‘baby’ of the family, as far as Ottawa’s golfing professionals are concerned.

Johnny, one of the Ottawa pros’ smallest at 5-foot, 3-inches – Ernie Wakelam of the Royal Ottawa and the Glenlea’s Harry Mulligan are the others – is just starting his third season at the Gatineau, his first professional job.

His size is no deterring factor on his teaching or playing, however, as Henrick can get plenty of muscle behind his drive and fairway shots.”

The Winning Continues

During his time in the Ottawa Valley playing in the Ottawa Valley Group of the CPGA, John was the winner in 1953 and 1954 of the Compton Cup awarded to the top money winner in the Ottawa Valley Groups season-long tour. In 1955, John took home first place in the Quebec PGA Spring Open.

According to Golf Canada’s Canadian and Provincial Golf Records to 1980 manual, John Henrick tied for low Canadian in the Canadian Open at Beaconsfield, Quebec along with Gordon Brydson from the Mississauga Golf Club in Toronto, Ontario and Ernest Boros from the Kanawaki Golf Club in Montreal, Quebec with scores of 286. Mr. Brydson was the winner of the Rivermead Cup after a playoff.

John did take home the Rivermead Cup the following year when he was the low Canadian professional in the Canadian Open held at the Westmount Golf & Country Club in Kitchener, Ontario. He beat Stan Leonard and Moe Norman by one stroke for the title.

John was a Canadian Team Member of the Carling Cup Pro-Am Championship Team in 1958 when Canada took home the Cup in a 1-stroke win over the United States. Members of the winning Canadian Team were professionals Al Balding, Jack Kay and Stan Leonard along with amateurs Gary Cowan, Eric Hanson, Hugh Paterson and Nick Weslock.

John Henrick’s professional career would take him to the Highland Country Club (1960-1961) in London, Ontario; the Willows Golf Club (1962-1967) in Markham, Ontario and the Brampton Golf Club (1968-1990) in Brampton, Ontario.

His record of wins continued when he won the Quebec Open in 1967 at the Saguenay Country Club in Quebec and three consecutive Ontario PGA Seniors Championships in 1980 through 1982. His last professional win was in the over 70 Division of the Ontario PGA Seniors Championship in 2008.

His Own Style of Play

Flagstick reached out to Michael Schurman, the PGA of Canada’s most recent inductee into their Hall of Fame, for some insight into his good friend John Henrick. Michael responded with the following observations.

“The big thing about John was the style of golf he played. John played his ball ‘on the ground’. He had decent length off the tee but he played his shots into the green to be ‘working’ toward the hole. In other words, he played iron shots to land in the front of the green and run to the hole. In his career, he sank over 40 shots from the fairway from beyond 125 yards.

I first became aware of him when I played on a team in the Ontario Pro-Junior. I was a junior. After the round, we were sitting talking around a big table. He leaned over and said in a very quiet voice. May I tell you something? Yes, I said. He whispered, “An 8 iron swing isn’t like a driver swing”. That was it. That’s what he told me. It was his way of teaching me how to ‘play’ golf instead of what I was doing. 

John disliked modern golf. He said it required no imagination, no shot-making. He said the fairways today are far too wet with irrigation and cut far too short. Then he would place a ball on the palm of his hand and set a 3-wood behind it to show the amount of club between the face and the sole can’t fit between the ground and the ball. His point was that nobody can play the conditions presented on most courses today.

John was also an extremely good hockey player. He and Dickie Moore played on the same team.

Last summer, we played a Hickory event and John was in his glory. He was 89 and shot 91 but he ‘played’ golf. He looked like he was born to play golf like that.”

Michael Schurman also passed along two photos. One of John but the other is of a three-some John played in, in 2016. It is the oldest three-some of Professional golfers to ever play in a Professional event. The players were Bill Kozak – 93, Gord de Laat – 99 and John – 86. Ben McCallum was scheduled to play but wasn’t feeling well. He was 87.

Throughout his golf career, John Henrick played in professional competitions across Canada and the United States as well as on the PGA Tour in the United States. We’re told that he did that all with a broad smile, something evident in all his photos.

That joy gained from golf appears to be all the reward his was looking for in a life well-lived.

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