Johnson survives adventure for victory

OLIVE BRANCH – A relieved Fletcher Johnson walked off the final green Monday after rolling in a 6-foot birdie putt.
“It was a roller coaster today,” said the Tupelo High senior. “I’m glad it’s over. It was an adventure.”
Johnson survived a wacky 18-hole round in the MHSAA Division 1-6A golf tournament to record a 1-under-par 71 to lead the three-time defending state champion Golden Wave to a division championship at Wedgewood Golf Club.
Tupelo, which posted a low score of 297 in the eight-team field, qualified to defend its state title May 10-11 on its home course, the Tupelo Country Club.
Johnson, a Mississippi State signee and the 2010 State Amateur champion, did experience an adventurous morning and afternoon to capture medalist honors:
n He had a tee shot land in a hazard on his fourth hole. He eventually recorded a par.
n Later in the round, he had a tee shot become lodged between a stick and a tree root. He hit a 6-iron left-handed to escape the jam. He went on to save par on the hole with a 15-foot putt.
n He recorded a 12-foot birdie putt moments after a stray dog ran onto the green and picked up his ball.
n He sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16 hole experimenting – as he had this past weekend at AJGA tournament in Atlanta and again Monday – with a new claw-style putting grip.
n The claw grip, which produced four birdies, also resulted in a pair of three-putts.
“I had some good putts and bad putts, so I really don’t know,” Johnson said of the grip. “I messed with the grip in Atlanta this weekend and it felt good. I’m going to see if it will work.”
Wilson Reeder’s 2-over 74 was second for Tupelo. He was followed by Noah West with a 75 and Austin Rose with a 77. Hayden Buckley’s 80 didn’t figure into the final total.
DeSoto Central finished second with a 316, 19 shots behind THS. Starkville was third with a 350 team score. All three qualified for the state tournament.
Ryan Lacy’s 80 led the Yellowjackets.
Golden Wave coach Mark Enis said his team would spend the weeks leading up to the state tournament working on their short games.
“We’re going to work a lot on 100 yards and in,” he said. “We’re also going to do a lot of playing. We’ve only played five 18-hole matches.”

n Results, Page 2B

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal