JACKSON – With a five-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round of the Mississippi State Amateur, you would think that Fletcher Johnson would take it easy.
The Tupelo High golf standout shot a second consecutive 2-under par 70, recording his first hole-in-one in the process, to win the state amateur by seven strokes at the County Club of Jackson.
The 5-under 283 total made Johnson, who turned 17 on May 29, the youngest to win the State Amateur in the last 60 years.
The rising high school senior shot a 70 on Saturday to lead defending champion and Ole Miss golfer Jonathan Randolph by five strokes entering the final round.
Randolph, a senior-to-be at Ole Miss, was even-par for the final round and finished at 2-over for the tournament. Senatobia’s T. Robert Oakley, who was paired with Johnson and Randolph for the final round, finished in third at 3-over 291.
“No, not really,” Johnson said when asked if he was worried about blowing such a huge lead. “I was just going to go out there and play my game, and I did that for the most part today.”
And Johnson didn’t collapse at all during the final 18. He was even tied momentarily with Steve Wilson – the leader through the first two rounds – on Sunday, but didn’t seem to notice.
“Nah, I didn’t realize it,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know. I was just trying to stay in my own game.”
Wilson, playing in the group just ahead of Johnson’s, had birdied the fifth hole to pull even with Johnson at 1-under. However, the veteran Wilson shot above par on each of the final 13 holes to finish with a final-round 5-over 77 and a 7-over 295 total.
Johnson, who has committed to Mississippi State, finished with two birdies, an eagle and an ace.
The hole-in-one came on the 151-yard, par-3 13th hole. After using a 9-iron on the same hole the previous day, he decided on Sunday to use his gap wedge.
He said the 9-iron was “a little too much” for the hole.
“Today, I just felt like the gap wedge was right,” the teenager said, “and it was right. It was perfect.”
Ricky Riley of Fulton and ICC standout Alex Rowland of Houston finished in a tie for fourth at 4-over 292.
Chad Ramey, the medalist at the MHSAA Class 4A state tournament in May, finished in a three-way tie for 13th overall at 8-over 296. The Itawamba AHS graduate and Mississippi State signee tied with his future college coach, Clay Homan, and Ben Snow of Hattiesburg.
And that just goes to show how impressive Johnson was in beating a strong field.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” Randolph said of Johnson. “He’s got a lot of golf ahead of him. I play week in and week out with the top players in the country, and I think that’s as good as anything you’ll ever see.
“He showed a lot of poise out there. It feels a whole lot better to get beat by somebody who has an eagle and a hole-in-one on the back nine and that just outplays you, than it does if I were to hit a ball in the water or something like that.
“I give him a lot of credit for playing great today. He proved a lot to me out there.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal