|Teeing it up with the big boys|
|Wednesday, May 30, 2012|
“June is going to be a really big month for me,” said Lebanon Golf and Country Club head golf professional Audie Johnson.
That’s putting it mildly.
June should prove to be a wow! month for the 49-year-old Johnson whose main duty is handling daily golf operations at the Lebanon club.
Next week, he makes his Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour debut in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Then June 24-27, he swings West for the PGA of America National Club Pro Championship on California’s Monterey Peninsula, an four-day event that will air on the Golf Channel.
“The PGA tour event is not what I do. I’m a club pro at Lebanon Golf and Country Club,” Johnson said, honestly. “The second tournament is where I will be competing against club professionals. I’ll be playing with my peers rather than the greatest golf pros in the world.”
While the mid-1990s were good years professionally for Johnson, then in his 30s, the past two years have been even better. His victories in 2011 and 2012 include the Tennessee PGA Match Play Championship, the Tennessee PGA Section Championship, the Tennessee Club Pro Championship and two other Middle Tennessee chapter championships.
“The past year was the best I’ve had professionally,” said Johnson, who won more than $17,000 from the Tennessee PGA. His victory last fall as the state club pro champion earned him entry into the FedEx St. Jude Classic that begins June 7 at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
“I’m sure the first shot will probably be a little nervous,” he said about his tee time a week from tomorrow. “I just wanna have fun and enjoy that experience. I have no expectations and am hoping to play the best golf I can those days. I just want to play good, and it will be great if I make the cut.”
Johnson, who lives in Mt. Juliet with his wife Jennifer and daughters Kaylee, 11, and Alli, 8, has played the Southwind course about a dozen times and that is where he won the state club pro championship, so he knows the course.
He plans to hit Southwind for practice rounds next Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he has tee times so that he and 16 of his friends can play on a nearby course. About 20 to 30 of his pals and Lebanon Country Club members plan to follow him during the tournament. Serving as his caddy will be friend and club member Casey Moore of Lebanon.
The club pro was born and raised in Nashville where he attended McGavock High School before going to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he played on the golf team.
“I didn’t take a lot of lessons growing up. I just played every day, and I tried to play with the best,” Johnson said. He turned professional in 1985 and served as head golf pro at Nashboro Village from 1996 until 2003 when he became head pro at the Lebanon club.
The golfer says the best part of his game is his experience—34 years of playing competitively—and his chipping and putting. He only practices three hours a week.
“I don’t practice a lot. I did a lot of practicing in high school and college. I don’t want to learn how to play practice. That doesn’t teach you how to play. I don’t play much golf unless it’s competitive,” he said.
Unless he’s competing in a tournament, Johnson can be found at the Lebanon club from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. most days, where he handles everything related to golf from memberships, lessons and club events to selling golf equipment.
Johnson is extremely proud of the greens on the course this summer. “We got new Bermuda grass greens last year,” he beamed. “Our golf course is better than it’s ever been.”
As a Titleist staff player, Johnson uses only Titleist golf clubs and golf balls.
“Titleist flew me out to Carlsbad, Calif., in March to get fitted with 2012 equipment. They make sure I get the best of everything. I went through a whole day of fitting,” he said of the fringe benefits of having a solid year from tee to green.
Since he turns 50 in July, the PGA Senior tour door opens for him as well as club pro tournaments for seniors.
“Will I become a senior tour player? Probably not. Will I enter a few tournaments? I’m thinking about it,” said Wilson County‘s most successful professional golfer. “All I’m ready to do now is get prepared for the next few events.”