One of the newest members of the USGA Executive Committee also happens to have taken one of the more unusual pathways to that place in golf governance – and to the game itself.
“I trained horses and rode competitively when I was a girl,” 59-year-old Leslie Henry told GGPBiz shortly after she began a three-year term on that body. “Then, I started tennis and did that competitively through high school and college. It wasn’t until I was 35 that I began playing golf.”
The reason she made the move had more to do with work – and managing her workload as a lawyer – than a deep desire to pick up the royal and ancient game.
“I was at a firm in Houston,” recalled Henry, a litigator who largely handles toxic tort cases and divides her time between Houston and New Orleans. “And the guys there would go off to play golf. I didn’t play at the time and would stay behind and write everybody’s legal briefs while they were on the course. Eventually, I decided I should learn the game myself, so I could avoid all that extra work.”
Henry took up golf with a vengeance, and in addition to becoming an avid recreational player, she started teeing it up in local and state golf tournaments and then USGA championships. In time, playing led her to take on leadership roles, first with the Women’s Texas Golf Association (as a member of the WTGA’s Board of Directors) and then the Texas Golf Association (as a TGA director when the two groups merged in 2014).
“I’ve long enjoyed competing in sports, and golf gave me another way to do that,” explained Henry, who became president of the TGA in 2020. “It has also been valuable as far as spending time with clients and a great way to meet people and be outside. And I like how you can give back through the sport, whether supporting initiatives like First Tee or helping associations like the TGA and USGA do all they do for the game.”
Needless to say, Henry is thrilled to have found her way into golf. And now, she is deeply embedded – and invested.
The oldest of three children, Henry grew up on a rice and soybean farm in Dumas, Arkansas, a town of less than 4,000 people located just west of the Mississippi River.
“Whenever I am interviewing prospective jurors for a case, I tell them I am from Dumas and add that it is spelled with one ‘s’ and not two,” she said. “And if they don’t laugh, I don’t pick them.”
Horseback riding was an early love for Henry. Then tennis came into the picture when she was 12 years old.
“There are so many great courses in Houston, and it was not difficult to find places to play and practice. I spent a lot of time at a municipal course near where I lived, and where I ran, at Memorial Park, which has hosted the Houston Open over the years.” – Leslie Henry
“My parents had a tennis court built at home,” she said. “My mother, Pat, and I and my younger brother and sister, Martin and Betty Ann, played doubles against each other, and my father, Sterling, refereed. And our mother used to drive us to tournaments all the time.”
Henry became good enough to train for a spell as a teenager with the great Australian tennis player and coach Harry Hopman at his academy in Florida before going on to compete on the tennis team at LSU.
“But then I got hurt,” she said. “And that pretty much ended my competitive career.”
Henry later enrolled in the South Texas College of Law in Houston, at which point her primary athletic activity became running. And she would run anywhere from 3 to 6 miles every day.
Then, she got into golf.
Henry trained and rode horses competitively as a child growing up on a rice and soybean farm in Dumas, Arkansas. She took up golf at 35.
“There are so many great courses in Houston, and it was not difficult to find places to play and practice,” said Henry, who adds that family members call her Sassy – and that she lives up to that name. “I spent a lot of time at a municipal course near where I lived, and where I ran, at Memorial Park, which has hosted the Houston Open over the years.”
Eventually, Henry started entering golf tournaments, doing well enough to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur Championships and to win the Greater Houston Women’s City Senior Championship four times. She also played on the Texas Cup South Team on seven occasions and competed in the World Amateur Golfers Championship in Malaysia after winning the Nationals in Orlando, Florida.
“Golf, like tennis, is an individual sport that at the end of the day allows you to compete against yourself and push to get a little better at it,” Henry said. “And I worked hard to get better at golf. I’d head to Memorial Park just as the sun was getting up and play three balls on the back nine and still get to work by 8:45.
“I also liked playing a sport competitively again,” said Henry, a partner with the firm of Adams and Reese. “Especially with my work. Litigation can be very combative, and getting out to the golf course was a great release from that.”
When asked about the best parts of her game, Henry says it’s chipping and putting, which she tries to practice at least a couple of days a week. “I am also pretty strong mentally,” she said.
As for where she plays, Henry is understandably fond of Memorial Park, where she played a lot of her early golf, and appreciates how the public game brings people together, with perfect strangers often becoming friends after a round. But she enjoys the game on a private level, as well, as a member at Kingwood outside Houston and the Metairie Country Club in New Orleans.
She is also grateful for how playing the game led to her getting involved with governance.
“One day, when I was playing in a WTGA event, someone from the organization suggested that I join its board,” Henry said. “My parents always stressed the importance of giving back, and that started with writing thank-you notes as kids to the people who put us up in their homes when we traveled to tennis tournaments.
“And golf has had such a positive impact on my life that I wanted to do what I could to help and promote it.”
By all accounts, Henry was a big help in facilitating the merger of the WTGA and TGA in 2014. Then after being named the first female officer in TGA history, she became in 2020 its first female president.
Association officials say she has done a bang-up job there.
“Leslie has a brilliant legal mind and is an exceptionally good listener,” said Stacy Dennis, the TGA’s executive director. “She sees and hears what is going on and understands what needs to happen.
“Leslie is also very collaborative and super authentic. She has a very good mix of perspectives, too, given the different ways she uses the sport and how she came into the game.”
Henry’s work for the TGA, which is one of the USGA’s 58 Allied Golf Associations, is one of the things that made her such an attractive candidate for the Executive Committee. So is her legal expertise and her overall passion for the game.
“I am there to be a sounding board and to assist when I can,” said Henry, who will serve on the audit, governance and handicap committees in her first year with the USGA. “And I cannot wait to get started.”
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