He will wear his emotions not on his sleeve, but on his hat.
Emblazoned in a position usually reserved for sponsorship reasons, the letters will be with J.J. Henry as he plays the season opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. “A couple people have asked, and a lot of people have already figured it out,” Henry said.
Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The sheer horror still makes you shudder.
“Whether you come from the area or not, just the devastation and the unthinkable that happened …," Henry said.
But here’s the thing. Henry is from the area. He grew up in Fairfield, Conn., about 20 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. When the massacre occurred Dec. 14, he was like nearly every other person who heard the news. He was frozen with fear. Twenty young children and six teachers and administrators gunned down.
“It’s almost too hard to talk about,” he said.
But it’s something that needs to addressed. More to the point, the families need to be honored, and so Henry thought he would do something. “Sitting at home (in the Fort Worth, Texas, area), I thought if I could be a small part in honoring those families, I wanted to do that. I went to that school system. I’ve always remembered where I came from.”
Henry said he has been in contact with Nathan Grube, tournament director of the Travelers Championship, one of the longest-running PGA Tour stops. When he won what passes as his hometown tournament in 2006, Henry rightfully felt as if he had captured a major championship, and it’s with great pride that he accepts the responsibility of flying the flag for Connecticut on the PGA Tour.
A tournament with massive neighborhood and local ties, the Travelers has always rallied around Connecticut causes. Henry knows that will happen again, and he vows to work with Grube and Tour officials to pay tribute to the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims.
“I’m not sure where all this is heading,” he said. “But we’ll do something.”
For years, the PGA Tour winner has overseen his own foundation, The Henry House. It works with the Ben Hogan Foundation in the Fort Worth area and supports First Tee programs in his native area and in his adopted home. The Henry House will be involved in efforts to pay tribute to Newtown families, he said.
“All my family still lives (in that Connecticut area),” Henry said. “My aunt (Sharon Harder) lived around the corner (from Sandy Hook Elementary School) for years.” And when Sandy Hook students returned to school Jan. 3, they did so at Chalk Hill School, where as a kid Henry played junior high school basketball.
So, yes, this is personal. It hits close to home.
Like he said before, “It’s almost too hard to talk about.”