He practices daily, often for hours at a time. While putting is his favorite aspect of the game, he admits that being good requires a tough mental game as much as a fit body. And he says that “hitting a hole-in-one” is the hardest part of playing golf.
But there’s one thing that sets Henriques apart from many veteran players.
He’s just 9 years old.
Henriques, who has been playing golf since he was 3, is already making great strides in the game. He’s traveled extensively throughout the state to compete in various children’s events.
“I’ve gone all over Georgia,” he said.
On June 5, Henriques shot a career low of 37 over nine holes to place fourth at a U.S. Kids Golf tournament. In another event a week later, he carded a 38 to once more finish fourth. His best finish is second place at a U.S. Kids Golf event, which was held at his home course, Fairways of Canton.
This weekend, Henriques will be at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain to participate in the U.S. Kids Golf Georgia State Championship. The two-day event could qualify him for the 2013 world championship in Pinehurst, N.C.
Henriques will be tested with 36 holes. Most tournaments the young player enters are only nine or 18 holes.
“It’s a much bigger event,” said his father, Robert Henriques IV, who serves as his caddie. “It’s two days, (today) and Sunday.”
Nicknamed “The Big O” because of his orange hair, Henriques is anything but big. But when he steps on the course, his size doesn’t matter. Stepping up to a tee, his drives are long and straight.
Blake is the third of four children in the Henriques family, but he’s the only one who plays golf. He said that it was hard to play at first, but it got easier with practice.
“I had to train a lot,” he said. “I still do train a lot. I practice on every club pretty much every day. It’s fun.”
Henriques trains with Fairways of Canton golf pro Stan Moore, who has helped him lower his average by 14 strokes in the last year.
Moore attributed Henriques success to the child’s love of the game and motivation.
“I think he just has fun playing the game,” Moore said.
Whenever he hits a bad shot or plays poorly on a hole, Henriques has learned how to handle it.
“Focus on the next hole,” he said. “I focus on that.”
Henriques first became interested in golf after watching it on television when he was 3. His parents bought him a club, and be began honing his skills in the backyard.
“We were on vacation in Hilton Head and he saw it on TV, and he decided that he wanted to try to play,” Robert Henriques said. “He sort of started swinging and never put it down.”
Blake’s mother, Monica, said that when he received an indoor putting green, he would hit balls for hours.
Monica Henriques supervises Blake while he does his homework and admits that it takes a lot to balance golf and school. But the rising fourth-grader at Knox Elementary in Canton is an honor-roll student.
“It’s a lot of work,” Monica Henriques said. “You want the best for your child. He is talented, so for me, it’s school work, then practice. School work, then practice.”
Robert Henriques said it has been a rewarding experience seeing Blake develop as a player.
“We play quite a bit,” he said. “I can’t play as much as he does because of work, but I’m always out here. We work together with me being his caddie.”
Robert Henriques said he has learned a lot from Moore about how to help Blake when they are on the course.
“Fairways of Canton has been absolutely amazing to Blake,” Robert Henriques said. “They help him and let him play golf all the time.”
Also supportive of the young player is his grandfather, Robert Henriques III — or, as Blake calls him, “Pop Pop” — who buys him golf balls and accompanies him to many of the tournaments.
Blake plans to stick with golf for quite some time. When asked how long he wants to play, his answer was simple: “My whole life.”
To other young players, Henriques has a small, but important piece of advice: Have a good attitude.
His parents say that their son’s attitude is what makes them so willing to allow him to play.
“His attitude has really improved so much over the last year,” Monica Henriques said. “We just attribute it to his coach and how awesome everyone here has been to Blake.”