Mark Hensby made the most of his talent after a tough childhood.

HE only took up golf to escape going home to a divided household.

Yet Mark Hensby found he not only loved the game, but he was good at it too.

The former Tamworth golfer eventually took one of the more unusual paths into professional golf.

And the now US-based Hensby came the full circle when he broke through to win on the rich US PGA Tour Champions earlier this season.

That’s not bad for a professional who came agonisingly close to giving the game away a little over 12 months ago.

Now happily residing in the US, Hensby long ago made a pact with himself that he would do something his own father didn’t do – and that was be ‘there’ for his children.

As a youngster in Tamworth, Hensby’s life with his father was so volatile that his daily routine included leaving the house before his father – who worked nights – arrived home. 

His usual escape from what is supposed to be one’s safe place began each morning at 4:45am, just before his father’s 5am return.

At the other end of each long day, Hensby would normally not come home for the night until his father had left for work.

“I did have to be home for dinner,” Hensby told the PGA Tour’s Doug Milne.

“If I wasn’t, the repercussions were pretty bad. 

“So, yeah, it was definitely not the picture-perfect childhood … that’s for sure.”

Hensby sought diversions at every turn.

When he was just 12-years-old he found golf.

“Me and a kid up the street that I played rugby with one day said: ‘Let’s go play nine holes of golf’,” he said.  “We both laughed, like, ‘play what?’. 

“But we did it – we went and played nine holes. And that’s where it all started.”

Hensby began playing every Sunday, then every day. 

With his school in close proximity to the golf course, Hensby even began playing before and after classes.

“I practiced, practiced and practiced,” said Hensby. 

“I just became obsessed with golf.”

As soon as he was old enough, Hensby began working two jobs – washing dishes and delivering mail.

“Thursdays and Fridays were a little tough, because I worked until 2am at the restaurant, then had to be up at 5am, just a few hours later, to go to the post office,” he recalled.

Hensby said that playing golf in college was always on his mind. 

His concern, though, was that not many people knew about him because of where he lived. 

It [Tamworth] wasn’t a major city which, Hensby says, was kind of a handicap in Australia. He never did receive a scholarship.

Yet through a mutual friend, Hensby was offered a move to the US in 1994; specifically, Chicago. 

If willing to relocate to the Windy City, he was told, this mutual friend offered free lodging and even practice facility access at the famed Cog Hill golf course. 

Mark Hensby shows off the Invited Celebrity Classic trophy.

After having initially stayed with family friends, for a time slept in his car parked at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club near Chicago, Illinois. He won the Illinois State Amateur Championship in 1994 before turning professional the following year.

Hensby wasted little time making his decision of which way to go at that life intersection.

“I saved up my money with the various jobs I was doing at the time,” the 52-year-old said. 

“I was still an amateur, so I came over and gave it a shot.”

Prior to joining the PGA Tour, Hensby won three times on the Tour (now Korn Ferry) and in 2004 broke through to win the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic.

In 2005, he won the Scandinavian Masters on the European Tour, finished fifth at the Masters, T3 at the US Open, T15 at The Open and 59th at the US PGA Championship.

At that time, Hensby was ranked 27th in the world and was called up by the International Team for the Presidents Cup. 

There were many more twists and turns for Hensby over the ensuing 20 or so years and Hensby’s life came probably the full circle and there was no more popular win when he triumphed in a sudden-death playoff with Charlie Wi on the PGA Tour Champions earlier this year.

Success in the Invited Celebrity Classic in Irving, Texas was his first Champions Tour success and before he headed home to hug his family, Hensby pointed out the significance of that breakthrough win.

“Hopefully that takes a little pressure off me, knowing that I’m in every week, and yeah, I’m looking forward to that,” he said.