By Beaux Yenchik, UGA Intern
For a man who has limited time to practice and play, one of Davis Park’s PGA Assistant Professionals has learned to make due by qualifying for one of the biggest stages in golf.
Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Course, located on the Monterey Peninsula in the state of California, played host to the 2018 PGA Professional Championship – consisting of 312 PGA Professionals looking to qualify for the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Utah’s Zach Johnson – not to be confused with that “other guy” – was one of 20 players to claim a spot in the season’s last major. Johnson, who self-proclaimed to have a “boring game,” finished tied for 12th with a 2-over-par 290.
The 35-year-old pro from Farmington – as a working professional – said he still loves to “play and compete” when given the opportunity to do so. Teaching multiple lessons during the week, along with his responsibilities in the shop, Johnson finds little time during the week to hit balls at the range or even play. With baby No. 2 on the way, Johnson has the mentality of “work first, play second.”
Because golf can be a difficult game to dedicate 100 percent of one's time and energy, Johnson has somehow found a way to make it work. One will find Johnson traveling to local tournaments around the state to pick up a few extra bucks and bragging rights amongst colleagues when time permits.
For anyone who is in the golf business or sees someone who is, knows the lifestyle can be difficult. Days are from sun up to sun down, sometimes seven days a week. Yet, Johnson said he still “enjoys the profession.”
Having succeeded last September at the Utah PGA Section Championship – hosted at Toana Vista Golf Course in Wendover, Nevada – Johnson used this local qualifier to advance to Seaside, California as his opportunity to qualify to play with the big boys: Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, etc. in August.
The 312-player field was no slouch in competition either for the Davis County star. Johnson described his competition to be the best “top club pros, past veterans and off-and-on tour card holders.”
The coast-line venue proved to be a difficult test over the 72 holes of golf played – having a cut after rounds two and three as the field was cut down to 90 and 70 players.
With a constant breeze zipping in from the Pacific Ocean, Johnson knew his game was well suited for those types of conditions. As someone who consistently hits the ball straight, playing from the fairways instead of the rough, was crucial to his success, especially when most of the greens required precise iron shots due to having a heavy dosage of slope.
Because the “course did not give up a lot of birdies,” Johnson did his best as he stuck to his game plan and “[accepted] what he can and can’t do.” Posting rounds of 70-73-75-72 (+2), Johnson finished just one shot ahead of those tied for the final qualifying spots at 3 over par.
Following his solid performance, Johnson received nothing but support for what he had accomplished and also well wishes at the PGA Championship. As he pulled his phone out of his bag after his final round, Johnson said he had 50 plus text messages from people back home – talk about a small-knit community who supports its local golfers.
Johnson even heard from the PGA Star who shares his same name: “Good luck 2 my fellow Zach Johnson at #PGAProChamp & qualifying for ’15 @PGAChampionship. The more Zach Johnson’s in the field, the better!”
Now, looking forward to the big date next month, life goes back to normal for Johnson – teaching, working in the pro shop, spending time with his family, and having limited time to practice. With no expectations going into the PGA Championship, Johnson plans to “stick to what he’s been doing” and have fun along the way.
In describing his emotions for this momentuous occasion, Johnson said he “can’t simulate or emulate the feelings” he might experience there. With no way to prepare for those feelings, all Johnson said he can do is play in more tournaments and take what comes his way.
Zach, from all of us here at the Utah Golf Association and any others who are following your journey, good luck!