Cancer Survivor Wins 17th Pro Title Months After Gaining All-Clear

New Zealander Michael Hendry reigned supreme to claim his second victory on the Japan Golf Tour less than a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia

Michael Hendry at the 2024 New Zealand Golf Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Hendry has won several times over the past year, but one achievement rewarded him with the most precious prize of all - extra time with his family.

The 44-year-old New Zealander had 15 pro victories to his name and had recently scooped the Vic Open on the PGA Tour of Australasia when he was diagnosed with leukaemia - a form of cancer - in May 2023.

He was forced to withdraw from what would have been his third appearance at The Open Championship - held at Royal Liverpool - in 2023, a spot he had earned after finishing second at the World City Championship on the Asian Tour. But in light of the shocking news, Hendry was left unsure as to whether he would ever play another pro event again, let alone a Major.

Yet, just months later and after several rounds of chemotherapy, he walked the first steps back on the road to being considered 'all-clear.'

It did not take the Auckland-born player to resume that winning habit, either, with Hendry going on to lift the DVS Clearwater Open on the Australia-based Charles Tour in October for his 16th pro success. To make the playoff victory even sweeter, he holed the deciding putt on his 44th birthday.

Michael Hendry poses with the For The Players By The Players 2024 trophy

Michael Hendry poses with the For The Players By The Players 2024 trophy

(Image credit: Japan Golf Tour)

A matter of months later, in May 2024, and Hendry was at it again - only not on his birthday this time. Nine years after his first Japan Golf Tour win, he claimed his second via the For The Players By The Players held at The Club Golf Village in Gunma - two hours north-west of Tokyo.

The overnight leader saw off Hideto Kobukuro by just one point in the adjusted Stableford format competition to finish with 38 points and back up his Token Homemate Cup success from 2015.

Speaking to JGTO media staff on Sunday, Hendry said: "I'm really happy. It's been a long time since I won at Token. There have been chances to win before, but I haven't been able to seize them, so I'm happy to have won this time."

Later reflecting on what happened a year ago, the Kiwi insisted he was just happy to be given what he considered to be a second chance at playing pro golf.

Hendry said: "A year ago, I received the diagnosis of leukaemia, and it was a devastating blow. Throughout my hospitalisation, I remained confined to the hospital bed and lost 17kg.

"The hospitalisation was about three to four months. I couldn't play golf for five months. I was discharged in September and it was not until October before I started playing again.

"I'm truly grateful for this second opportunity in my golfing journey and the chance to return to professional competition. My current goal is to enjoy golf and cherish time with my family."

Not only has Hendry been given another crack at his day job, the inspirational Kiwi will receive his third Open Championship start at Royal Troon in July after the R&A offered to hold his spot for the 2024 running.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald in January, Hendry explained that knowing he had a spot at the world's oldest Major secure was incredibly motivating as he went through recovery and gave him something "to live for."

He said: “Even before last year’s Open was played, the R&A had told me that they were going to see my exemption good for this year. So I’m already in the Open. I’m really looking forward to that and just trying to get myself in good form come July and hopefully I can make up for my missed opportunity last year.

Michael Hendry in action at the Porsche Singapore Classic 2024

Michael Hendry in action at the Porsche Singapore Classic 2024

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“It was huge. I can’t undersell how important it was for me during what I was going through with my leukaemia battle and the chemotherapy and all that sort of stuff to know that I had something like The Open to look forward to and push towards.

“The things I hadn’t achieved that I still wanted to achieve were just huge and pushing me forward in terms of doing the extra bit to make sure I was as healthy as I could be during that period of time.

"It really gave me something to look forward to and live for. It was great and I think it was a huge part of my success thus far in my recovery. They were very gracious.”

Jonny Leighfield
Staff Writer

Jonny Leighfield is our Staff News Writer who joined Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. An improving golfer who still classes himself as ‘one of the worst players on the Golf Monthly team’, Jonny enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.