The region’s least-heralded, best player over a long period?
Probably Chris Johnson.
“I do go under the radar,” he said. “But I enjoy that.”
Johnson, 48, partnered with Devyn Fitchhorn, 20, to win the Sacramento City Four-Ball Championship last weekend at soggy Bing Maloney. The pair birdied eight of the first 10 holes en route to a 6-and-5 title-match thumping of defending champions Tommy Semereaux and Ryan Wilson.
As is his nature, Johnson was more interested in talking about Fitchhorn than himself. Yes, Fitchhorn had six birdies in the 13-hole title match. Yes, the Sacramento State redshirt freshman from Vacaville has loads of potential.
If the young buck is still winning titles in 28 years, he’ll get his due. It’s time Johnson gets his.
“CJ” grew up and still lives in Rancho Cordova. He mostly played baseball and basketball at Cordova High School and blossomed as a golfer at UC Davis, where he won five times and earned Division II All-America honors as a senior.
Johnson had an ill-fated foray into pro golf in his early 30s. Before and long after that, his amateur accomplishments include dozens of regional city and county individual titles and an equivalent number of best-ball titles, mostly partnering with fellow UCD alum Scott Watson.
Watson has had 20 up-close years to see what makes Johnson so consistently good for so long.
“I can’t tell you anyone who is more positive than CJ,” Watson said. “That’s the same thing that makes him a great partner. He’s always uplifting, upbeat, never gets negative with himself or his partner. He give you a sense of calmness and he never lets his mind get out of a tournament no matter how he’s hitting the ball.”
Johnson was 25 when qualified for the 1994 U.S. Amateur won by 19-year-old Tiger Woods. He also qualified for one U.S. Mid-Amateur and three U.S. Amateur Public Links. He’s thought to be the only area player to complete that qualifying trifecta.
When he’s not knocking heads with the area’s best players, Johnson plays in a Saturday morning skins game at Ancil Hoffman, his home course where he’s won five club championships yet remains just one of the guys.
In his past 95 tournament rounds at Ancil, many in tough winter conditions, he’s a cumulative 17 under par. The goal when he started keeping track was to break 80 for 100 consecutive competitive rounds – the streak is intact.
“That’s pretty remarkable for a guy who plays golf only on weekends,” Watson said.
Johnson won his first city four-ball title in 1995 alongside Lou Alvarez. He won the Sacramento City and finished second in the California State Fair and Memorial Amateur, the area’s top individual events.
And he’s still going strong. He “keeps the fire burning,” he said, by not obsessing over golf. He also pans for gold and hikes.
“I like playing golf for fun,” he said. “Even at my age, I can get hot and throw in some good rounds every once in a while.”
Other four-ball tidbits:
▪ The team of Scott Beck and Alvaro Estrada were qualifying co-medalists with a 10-under-par 61. Beck shot a 62 on his own ball; he was 7 under through 14 holes in the team’s first-round win.
▪ Dormie with three holes to play in a first-round match against qualifying co-medalists Jeff Gilchrist and Steve Woods, the team of John Schneider and Christian Petersen stayed alive when Schneider aced No. 16. A birdie on No. 17 extended the match but, alas, the hole in one didn’t lead to victory.
▪ Cousins Matthew and Keaton Sutherland shot a 65 to qualify and won their first-round match.
▪ Bing’s front nine was unplayable over the final weekend, meaning the title-match participants played the back nine eight times in two days.
▪ Kevin Lucas (Folsom) finished third and Jake Johnson (Cameron Park) fifth in a field of 120 at a Canadian Tour qualifying tournament last week in San Jacinto. Both earned fully exempt status for the first eight tournaments in the 12-tournament 2017 season.
▪ Brad Kearns (Sacramento) earned his first paycheck as a professional athlete in 22 years last week when he finished third in the California Speedgolf Championships. Kearns, 52, a former pro triathlete and the oldest pro in the field, shot a 78 in 47 minutes and 53 seconds at Spring Creek in Ripon.