Harold Henning: South African Golfer Won Around the World

Harold Henning was a South African golfer who won around 50 tournaments all over the world, from the 1950s into the 1990s. He won national opens in Europe and Asia, and won tournaments on the PGA Tour. Then Henning enjoyed a long, successful second act as a Senior Tour mainstay.

Date of birth: October 3, 1934

Place of birth: Johannesburg, South Africa

Date and place of death: January 1, 2004, in Miami Beach, Florida

Nickname: Horse

Henning's Biggest Wins

PGA Tour

European Circuit

  • 1957 Italian Open
  • 1958 Daks Tournament (tie with Peter Thomson, no playoff)
  • 1958 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament (tie with Eric Brown, no playoff)
  • 1959 Spalding Tournament (tie with Eric Lester, no playoff)
  • 1960 Swiss Open
  • 1960 Sprite International
  • 1964 Swiss Open
  • 1964 Pringle of Scotland Tournament
  • 1964 Lancia d'Oro
  • 1965 Swiss Open
  • 1965 German Open
  • 1966 Engadine Open

European Tour (founded 1972)

  • 1981 KLM Dutch Open

Champions Tour

Henning also won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, not an official-money Champions Tour event, in 1989 and 1993.

Additional wins by Henning around the world are listed at the bottom of this article.

In the Majors

Henning never won a major, but he had a good record in the British Open. Between 1960 and 1984, Henning played The Open Championship 15 times, and in seven of those starts he finished inside the Top 10.

His best finishes in any major were two ties for third place, in the 1960 British Open and the 1970 British Open. His other Top 10s in the Open were tied sixth in both 1967 and 1983, tied eighth in 1964 and tied 10th in both 1961 and 1973.

Henning had no Top 10s in the other majors, but tied for 11th in the 1962 Masters. He played the U.S. Open and PGA Championship only twice each, and The Masters 10 times. He did, however, win the Masters Par-3 Contest in 1970.

More About Harold Henning

Harold Henning turned professional in 1953, the same year his fellow South African Gary Player turned pro. Like Player, Henning traveled the world to play tournaments. And, before either of them had recorded their first professional victory, they met in the finals of the 1955 Egyptian Matchplay Championship. That's where Henning became the answer to a trivia question: Who did Gary Player beat to win his first tournament?

Player went on to a historic career, Henning went on to a long and very productive career. Henning's first win was the 1956 Natal Open in South Africa. He won the South African Open in 1957 and 1962, and was runner-up in 1960 and 1966 (both times to Player). And he won the South African PGA Championship three years running, 1965-67.

But Henning was also traveling around Europe, Asia and other parts of the globe to play tournaments. He tried the American PGA Tour a few times without much success, but through the mid-1960s Henning was winning in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and Malaysia, among other places.

He was a 12-time winner on the European circuit (which predated the 1972 creation of today's European Tour) in the 1950s and 1960s. Those victories included the Italian Open in 1957, German Open in 1965, and Swiss Open in 1960, 1965 and 1965. He also won three staples of the British circuit of the era, the Daks Tournament and Yorkshire Evening News Tournament in 1958, plus the 1959 Spalding Tournament.

Henning first represented South Africa internationally in the 1957 Canada Cup (later called the World Cup), and ultimately played that tournament nine times (1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1971). In 1965, Team South Africa — Henning and Player — won the championship. (Third-place USA — Jack Nicklaus and Tony Lema — finished 11 strokes behind.) Henning finished sixth individually.

It was that World Cup performance that convinced Henning it was time to try the U.S. PGA Tour again.

Henning got into 10 PGA Tour tournaments in 1966, resulting in one win, one runner-up showing, and seven finishes inside the Top 25. The victory was in the 1966 Texas Open, which Henning won by three strokes over Gene Littler, Ken Still and Wes Ellis.

In 1967, Henning played a full year (25 starts) on the PGA Tour and, while there wasn't another win, he finished in the Top 25 fifteen times. That included a runner-up finish to Doug Sanders in the Doral Open. At the end of the year, Henning was 20th on the PGA Tour season money list.

Henning lost in a playoff at the 1969 Los Angeles Open to Charlie Sifford. An African-American golfer beating a golfer from apartheid South Africa in a playoff was a story that got a lot of media attention at the time. But Henning declined media requests to say something about his country's brutal apartheid regime, demurring, "I'm a golfer, not a politician."

Henning's second, and, it turned out, last PGA Tour win was at the 1970 Tallahassee Open. He scored 67 in the first round, but after a 76 in Round 2 Henning headed to the practice green to work out the kinks. Before the third round, he switched from an orthodox putting grip to holding the putter cross-handed (something he did at numerous times during his career) and then shot a course-record 64. But a string of bogeys early in Round 4 left him four behind the leader, Rives McBee, with nine holes to play. Henning achieved the victory, though, with a birdie-eagle-birdie finish to win by one stroke over McBee.

In the years 1966-69, Henning finished 36th, 20th, 27th and 42nd, respectively, on the PGA Tour money list. But despite winning in 1970, he fell to 95th after making just 10 starts. Then he made just nine starts in 1971 and only two in 1972.

And in 1972, Henning, then 38 years old, announced he was retiring from tour golf. He made only one PGA Tour start the rest of his career. For his brief PGA Tour career, Henning made 138 starts with 20 Top 20 finishes, including two wins, three seconds and two thirds.

Henning stayed away from the tournament life for six years, but returned in his early 40s, starting on the European Tour. He was 46 when he won the 1981 Dutch Open, at which time he quipped, "I have a great future behind me." Henning won that tournament by one stroke over Nick Price and Raymond Floyd by holing out from a greenside bunker on the last hole.

By 1982, Peter Alliss could write in one of his books that that Henning "could, with some justification, claim to be the third-best South African golfer ever behind Gary Player and Bobby Locke."

But his career was far from over. Henning turned 50 late in 1984, the same year he made his final starts on the European Tour. Beginning in 1985, he became a fixture on the Senior PGA Tour (later called the Champions Tour). Henning, over 18 seasons, made 520 career starts on the Champions Tour, with 129 Top 10 finishes, including three wins, 14 second-place finishes and 15-third place showings.

His first win happened in his rookie senior season of 1985 at the Tucson Senior Match Play Championship. He beat Dan Sikes in the championship match, 4 and 3. And that year he finished sixth on the senior money list.

Henning's best senior season was 1988, when he won once, was second four times, third twice, and posted 20 Top 10 finishes in 31 starts. He finished a career-best fifth on the Champions Tour money list.

Two of Henning's second-places finishes on the Champions Tour were playoff losses: He fell to old friend Gary Player in extra holes at the 1988 Southwestern Bell Classic; and to Bob Charles in the 1989 GTE Suncoast Classic. In 1989, despite no wins, he finished sixth on on the money list, the last of his three Top 10 finishes in money.

Putting had always been the strength of Henning's game, and it still was during his senior career. He twice led the Champions Tour in putts per round, in 1991 and 1995. That doesn't mean that Henning didn't struggle at times throughout his career with his putting technique. As mentioned earlier, he sometimes changed the way he gripped the putter in the middle of a tournament. On the Champions Tour in 1985, he was one of the earliest adopters of the long putter.

Henning finished inside the Top 20 on the Champions Tour money list every year from 1985 through 1991, and was 22nd in 1992. After that 1992 season, Henning ranked 11th on the senior tour's all-time money list.

The last of his three senior victories was in the 1991 First of America Classic, where Henning defeated Gibby Gilbert in a playoff. He last appeared in a Champions Tour tournament in 2002.

During his Champions Tour career, Henning had settled in Miami Beach, Florida. That is where he died, at age 69, following a lengthy illness in 2004.

Henning is a member of the Southern Africa Golf Hall of Fame.

And Harold was part of a highly accomplished quartet of golfing brothers. Allan, Brian and Graham Henning were also professional golfers, and, like Harold, Allan and Graham had wins in Africa and Europe. Allan Henning won the South African Open once and was runner-up three times. At the 1972 International Better-ball in Johannesburg, Harold and Graham partnered to win while Allan was on the second-place team. Brian Henning, at one time, was vice president of competitions for the Champions Tour.

Additional Pro Victories by Henning

In addition to the PGA Tour, European Tour and Senior Tour wins listed above, Henning also won these pro tournaments around the world (list probably incomplete):

Wins in Africa

  • 1956 Natal Open
  • 1956 Cock of the North
  • 1957 South African Open
  • 1957 Transvaal Open
  • 1957 1.000 Guineas Anglo-African Tournament
  • 1959 Cock of the North
  • 1959 Western Province Open
  • 1960 Northern Transvaal Open
  • 1961 Natal Open
  • 1962 South African Open
  • 1965 South African PGA Championship
  • 1966 South African PGA Championship
  • 1966 Kimberley Tournament (tie with Tony Jacklin)
  • 1966 General Motors Open
  • 1967 South African PGA Championship
  • 1972 International Better-ball (partnered by Graham Henning)
  • 1972 Ellerines Team Tournament (partnered by Graham Henning)
  • *1972 General Motors International Classic
  • *1972 Luyt Lager PGA Championship
  • *1980 ICL International
    (*Tournaments on the Southern Africa Tour, founded in 1971 and today known as the Sunshine Tour)

Far East Circuit

  • 1966 Malayan Open

New Zealand Circuit

  • 1958 Wiseman's Tournament

International Team Tournaments

  • 1965 Canada Cup team title (with Gary Player)
Photo credit: Harold Henning at the 1957 Open Championship by George Cowie, © The University of St Andrews, Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: GMC-1-48-1, CC BY-NC Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Alliss, Peter. The Who's Who of Golf, 1983, Orbis Publishing.
Bertrand, Tom. The Secret of Hogan's Swing, 2006, John Wiley & Sons.
Brenner, Morgan. The Majors of Golf, Volume 2, 2009, McFarland and Company.
Elliott, Len, and Kelly, Barbara. Who's Who in Golf, 1976, Arlington House Publishers.
Glasgow Herald. "Hennings Win," Feb. 28, 1972, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=K5ZAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=I6UMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6785%2C5303866
Los Angeles Times. "Harold Henning, 69; Golfer Won 50-Plus Tournaments in 5 Decades," Jan. 2, 2004, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2004-jan-02-me-henning2-story.html
PGA Tour. Senior PGA Tour 2001 Media Guide, "Harold Henning."
PGA Tour. 1993 Senior PGA Tour Official Media Guide, "Career Money List."
PGATour.com. Player, Harold Henning, https://www.pgatour.com/player/01511/harold-henning
PGA Tournament Players Division. "Harold Henning," The Tour Book 1971.
Steel, Donald, and Ryde, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1975, The Viking Press.

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