Iowans Elated Over Johnsons Victory

By Associated PressApril 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Asked to describe himself shortly after his Masters victory Sunday, Zach Johnson said, 'I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That's about it. I'm a normal guy.'
 
That helped steal the heart of the state.
 
Iowans were beaming like proud parents on Monday.
 
'He's like an Iowa kid. Kind of naive, very humble, and just a cool guy,' said Ryan Hartman, Johnson's former teammate at Drake University in Des Moines and one of his closest friends. 'My wife, who is a big city girl, said it best. She said that he is the nicest, most genuine person she's ever met.'
 
What makes Johnson's victory all the more remarkable to those who know him best is that he hardly looked like Masters material growing up in eastern Iowa. Johnson was so small as a youngster that he joined the junior program at his parents' golf club, Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, four years after many of the boys had started playing.
 
After a strong but hardly remarkable stint at Cedar Rapids Regis High, Johnson showed up at Drake in 1994 as a 128-pound freshman who couldn't drive the ball worth a lick.
 
But he could putt, and as Johnson's slight frame grew, so did his overall game. He eventually became one of the better college golfers in the Midwest, but his former coach at Drake, Jamie Bermel, said he never saw anything to indicate that Johnson could one day top the world's best at Augusta National.
 
'He wasn't a very big kid,' said Bermel, currently the coach at Colorado State. 'Real tough competitor. Just a solid player who got a little bigger -- and kept getting better and better and better.'
 
Johnson joined the Prairie Golf Tour in 1998, and made a slow but steady progression through the minor league circuit. He earned his PGA TOUR card after winning Nationwide Tour player of the year in 2003, and broke through with a win at the BellSouth Classic in 2004.
 
Mike Cigelman, Drake's associate athletic director, said Johnson's personality never changed as his paychecks grew. That was evident to him during a lunch Johnson had with the Drake golf team last year at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, site of the Nissan Open.
 
'He was the same guy a year ago that he was 10 years ago. He has an outstanding work ethic, yet he keeps things in perspective,' Cigelman said. 'Everyone at Drake is incredibly excited and proud of him. His achievements are the talk of the day for every faculty and staff member I've encountered.'
 
Johnson is perhaps the unlikeliest Masters champion since Larry Mize in 1987, and joins baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner atop a small list of Iowans who have excelled on pro sports' biggest stages.
 
'It means a lot. Iowans take a lot of pride from fellow Iowans,' Johnson told ESPN on Monday. 'I love going back. That's where everything started. ... I live in Florida now but going back to Iowa just feels great. I look forward to going back there with the green jacket.'
 
Hartman, echoing the sentiments of Johnson and many Iowans, said that in a state without a major pro sports team, Johnson's win at the Masters is something all of Iowa can rally behind. It was true at Elmcrest, where members packed the lounge on Easter Sunday to watch TV, and for Hartman, whose phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from friends and former teammates.
 
Hartman sent a text message to his now-famous buddy late last night.
 
'I said, 'Your life will never be the same. Great playing, and I'm still crying,'' Hartman said. 'He sent me something back this morning that said, 'Luv ya. I'll buy you some Kleenex.''
 
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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


    Masters victory


    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


    Departure from TaylorMade


    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


    Victory at Valderrama


    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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    Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Well, this is a one new one.

    According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

    “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

    Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

    “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

    The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

    “I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

    The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

    Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

    Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.