Pictured: Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame Members in attendance. From left to right with induction year in parenthesis: Ted May (2014), Dennis Coscina (1996), William T. Lee (2008), Walter Lowell (1979), Richard Zanini (2015), J.J. Henry (2015), Dave Szewczul (2010), Walter "Bud" Smith (2000), Bill Hermanson (2012), Tom Lane (2012) and Bruce Berlet (2009).
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Richard J. Zanini - Distinguished Service to Golf
J.J. Henry - Distinguished Golf Achievement
As he enters the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2015 in the category of “Distinguished Service to Golf,” there is widespread opinion that few have ever done more in voluntary support of the Connecticut State Golf Association and Connecticut golf in general, than Dr. Richard “Dick” Zanini.
Former CSGA Executive Director, Ron Drapeau and past president, Jeff Witherwax have described Dick as a “one-man band” in paying tribute to his extraordinary efforts building and managing the CSGA Scholarship Fund.
When the two nominated Dick for Hall of Fame consideration they quoted the selection criteria that describes “…individuals supporting or enriching the game or improving the lives of others through service to the game,” and wrote, “There is no better definition to describe the tireless work Dick Zanini has provided golf in Connecticut. His knowledge, organizational skills, analytical and problem solving abilities have contributed to the CSGA being recognized as one of the leading state golf associations in the country.”
Long before he rose to prominence in Connecticut golf circles, Dick was an apt student and a hard worker who enjoyed all sports. He grew up in western Massachusetts, and his introduction to golf came as a caddie at Stockbridge Golf Club. Dick recalls, “Caddying was a great introduction to the game, and I fell in love with the game and its traditions.”
In a life devoted to education and public service Dick has been a leader in every field in which he has devoted his considerable energy. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from the University of Massachusetts, Dick earned his PhD in Educational Administration from the University of Connecticut.
His teaching career began at Avon High School. He received several fellowships and internships including a U.S. Office of Education Fellowship in Washington, D.C. in 1966-67. After more than twenty years in school administration, he retired as Wethersfield’s Superintendent of Schools Emeritus in 1995.
With his teaching career well established, Dick joined Bel Compo Country Club and later Wethersfield Country Club in 1983. By his own admission he didn’t “get serious about golf until retirement.” Over the past twenty years Dick’s involvement in the game, especially in service as a volunteer has been extensive and all encompassing.
His dedication to Wethersfield typifies a selfless work ethic. Over the past two years, in preparation for Wethersfield’s 100th anniversary in 2016, the former club president has read the minutes of every Wethersfield meeting held since 1916, and combed through thousands of news stories and photographs. The result of Dick’s exhaustive research will be a centennial book celebrating the club’s history.
A member of the CSGA Board of Directors since 1998 and Wethersfield’s Club Representative since 1999, Dick has held nearly every position at both his home club and at the CSGA. His tenure on the CSGA Executive Committee culminated with a two-year term as President in 2007-08.
He personally managed CSGA By-Law revisions in 2001, 2003 and 2006, and his meticulous record keeping of CSGA minutes and the affairs of the Scholarship Fund has become the standard by which the Association operates. Along the way, Dick has been a key member of nearly every important CSGA body including search committees, competitions committees, and committees interacting with groups such as the Connecticut Golf Alliance and The First Tee.
A past president of the Connecticut State Seniors Golf Association, Dick has served as a member of the CSSGA Board of Trustees, as well as the Board of the CSSGA Scholarship Foundation since 2008. His work as Managing Director of the CSGA Scholarship Fund in Honor of Widdy Neale, Inc. is perhaps his most significant in golf-related volunteerism.
The CSGA Fund provides scholarship assistance to young men and women who have been employed at CSGA member clubs. Under Dick’s guidance, the Fund has assisted hundreds of young people.
“Dick’s dedication is both remarkable and inspiring,” according to CSGA Executive Director Mike Moraghan. “Clearly he has a passion for helping young people further their education, and he takes real delight in recounting the success stories of our Widdy Neale scholars. Dick is very serious about the work of the Scholarship Fund, but he’s also a good guy with a sense of humor, a real pleasure to work with on a day to day basis.”
Through a combination of many projects and relationship building with groups such as the CSSGA and the Senior Golfers of Connecticut, Dick has almost single-handedly grown the CSGA Scholarship Fund’s financial support of college students from $35,000 to more than $100,000 annually.
“It’s all fun,” says Dick, “It’s rewarding to see what these youngsters can accomplish when they are given the opportunity. And it’s important that these are four-year scholarships because it all adds up and can be very helpful to these young people and their families.”
As for his induction into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame, Dick said, “I am truly humbled to be recognized among so many others who I am certain are more deserving. I have received so much satisfaction from my limited efforts to contribute to the game, its history, and traditions, and I clearly have gained far more than I have given, particularly from coming to know so many wonderful people throughout the state.”
Dick and Lucille Zanini live in Wethersfield and have five grown children, eight grandchildren, and one great granddaughter.
One of the greatest players in Connecticut golf history, Ronald Joseph “J.J.” Henry, III enters the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2015 in the category of “Distinguished Golf Achievement.” At 40 years of age, and in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, J.J. is still in the midst of an outstanding career.
Born in Fairfield in 1975 to Nancy and Ron Henry, Jr., J.J. was introduced to golf at an early age. His grandfather, Ron Sr., was an avid golfer and a high school teammate of Julius Boros. As a young boy, J.J. learned the short game on a putting green and a bunker in his grandfather’s back yard, and spent countless hours whacking balls on the beach in Fairfield not far from his parent’s home.
J.J.’s father Ron was an enormously positive influence. An outstanding player himself who competed in multiple U.S. and British Amateur Championships, Ron was a regular in CSGA tournaments for many years, and a seven-time club champion at The Patterson Club in Fairfield.
“My dad was a great chipper and putter, and I learned a lot from him about course management, competitiveness and the mental side of things. I also learned to enjoy myself. My dad always wanted to make sure we were having fun.”
J.J.’s first taste of competitive golf came as a 12 year-old in the Jay Borck Memorial Junior. “One thing I remember my dad telling me before that first tournament was never to slam your club after a bad shot,” recalled J.J. “It shows weakness to your fellow competitors. When you’re 12 it’s good to have someone who understands and can help you.”
J.J. flourished as a junior golfer. He won the Borck Junior in 1991 and 1992, and led Fairfield High School to two state championships while going undefeated (76-0-2) in his high school career. A semifinalist in the 1993 AJGA Rolex Junior, J.J. enrolled at Texas Christian and went on to have a brilliant college career. In his senior year he won the Western Athletic Conference individual title, was runner-up in the NCAA Championship, and was named First Team All-American and NCAA College Player of the Year.
In the summer months during college, and beginning with a breakthrough victory in the 1994 Connecticut Amateur, J.J. dominated amateur golf in the northeast.
“The first time I won the Connecticut Amateur it felt like I had won the US Open. After caddying for my dad so many times it was really neat to have him caddying for me when I won. My dad had tears in his eyes and I did too. You go through a lot of highs and lows playing in a match play event, and it was great to be together with my dad through all of that.”
J.J. won the Connecticut Amateur again in 1995, and in 1998 he became only the fifth player in history to win both the Connecticut Amateur and the New England Amateur in the same year. In 1998 the Connecticut Sportswriters Association named J.J. as the Connecticut Male Athlete of the Year.
The arc of J.J.’s career continued steadily upward when he turned pro, reached the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying, and earned full status on the Nationwide Tour in 1999. In his second year on the pro circuit he captured the Knoxville Open and finished 13th in earnings to gain entrance to the PGA Tour in 2001.
Over the past 15 years J.J. has been one of the most consistently successful professional golfers in the world. With “Top-125” as the marker to determine who retains their PGA Tour status each year, J.J. is one of only three American-born players to finish inside the Top-125 in earnings every year since 2001.
The first of J.J.’s three PGA Tour victories came in storybook fashion at the Buick Championship in 2006 in Cromwell, and his triumph was celebrated statewide as he became the first Connecticut golfer to win the event.
The following year J.J. reached another pinnacle in being named to the United States Ryder Cup Team. J.J,’s performance in golf’s most pressure-packed championship was as solid as his entire career as he halved all three matches in which he was involved.
His second Tour championship came in the 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open and his outstanding play continues to this day. On July 3, 2015 he won again in Reno to claim his third PGA Tour victory. In one of the most dramatic finishes of the year on Tour, J.J. captured the title now known as the Barracuda Championship, with a 15-foot eagle putt on the second hole of a playoff.
Outside of his golf accomplishments, J.J. has also earned the admiration of thousands of people for his philanthropic work and commitment to bettering the lives of children and their families. Since its inception in 2006, J.J.’s Henry House Foundation has raised over $1,000,000 and funded local charities and tangible projects promoting health care and well being for children throughout the Fort Worth, Texas and Southern New England area.
From a joyful beginning in Fairfield, Connecticut J.J. Henry has become one of the greatest and most beloved golfers in Connecticut history, and a unanimous selection into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.