PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Gene Johnson played steady all week, but it was a couple of exciting moments at the end that proved to be the difference in earning him his first Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship title.
Johnson, who fired 79-79-84-80-322 to win the Senior Hogan Flight (8-11.9 handicap), took a two-stroke lead over Steve Case of Macon, Ga., going into the final round conducted at Fox Hollow Golf Club. Going into the 18th hole, he still held that lead over Case, but a hooked tee shot into the water led to triple bogey, while Case made bogey. That led to a playoff.
So they went to the par-4 10th hole. Both players missed the green – Case a little long and Johnson on the fringe above the hole of a two-tiered green. Johnson used a putter and it trickled over the hill and into the hole.
"I fist pumped," said Johnson, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "It's the best feeling I've ever had in golf."
By the time the two players got to the playoff, a crowd had started to gather. Johnson said one of them exclaimed, "Hell yeah, that's the way the win a golf tournament."
"It made my day," said Johnson, who has played on the Golf Channel Am Tour for six years and was making his third nationals appearance. "I went from despair to ecstasy. You know, golf gives you all those emotions."
But while the excitement came to the end, it was really Johnson's steady play all week that was key.
"A friend of mine told me to stay in the moment, just play one shot at a time when you play those tournaments," Johnson said. "It looks like it paid off."