U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
2016 Women's Mid-Am Runner-Up Coming off Sizzling Summer
September 21, 2018
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Shannon Johnson is hoping that her most successful summer of golf carries over to the fall season, which officially begins on Saturday, the first day of the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.
Johnson, 35, of Norton, Mass., has contended in the past two U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, finishing as the runner-up to fellow co-medalist Julia Potter-Bobb in 2016 and reaching the semifinal round in 2017. This week at Norwood Hills, she is hoping to earn her biggest trophy in a year that already includes victories in several regional events: the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy (June), the New England Women’s Amateur (July), the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur (August) and the Grace Keyes Cup (September).
“If someone had told me before the season started that I would win all those events, I would have told them they were joking,” said Johnson, who moved to the Bay State six years ago from her native South Dakota. “It’s been a good, solid year and every facet of my game has been pretty much on point.”
Johnson also recently became the first woman to compete in the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, finishing in a tie for 48th place in her final tuneup for this week’s championship.
“There really wasn’t much going on after the Mass. Women’s Amateur, and the [Mass. Mid-Amateur] qualifier worked out well with my schedule,” said Johnson. “The championship proper was perfect. It was good to feel the nerves, see how my game stacks up and see what I need to work on.”
Johnson has reached the match-play bracket in each of her four previous U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur starts and has an 11-4 record. This is her 14th USGA championship, beginning with the 1999 U.S. Girls’ Junior, and the two most recent Women’s Mid-Amateurs mark her best finishes by far.
“I think I’m playing better than I did in college,” said Johnson, who earned her degree from Indiana University after three years at the University of New Mexico, having earned all-conference honors at both schools. “I’ve never been able to put a finger on what it is. I’m certainly putting better than I ever have, but I think it’s more about perspective on life. Everyone matures differently.”
Johnson gained some important perspective on her golf future while playing against the cream of the crop in college.
“[World Golf Hall of Fame player] Lorena Ochoa was a year older than me, and there were tons of other talented players,” said Johnson. “I got to see them up close. There were players two or three years ahead of me who were beating me, then going out and struggling on the pro developmental tour. I compared my game against theirs and thought, what makes me think I can go out and play better?”
Instead of trying the professional game, Johnson began a career that has kept her involved on another level. She works as field sales representative for Ping Golf.
“It’s always a tough decision and I think I made the right one,” said Johnson. “I lived and died on every shot I ever played as a junior and in college. It felt a little too much like work, and I didn’t want to not like golf if I went pro and didn’t have a good outcome. I appreciate every minute that I’m out on the course and I’ve got an awesome group of people I play with.”
Johnson competes out of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, Mass., along with Megan Buck, who partnered with Johnson in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at El Caballero Country Club. Buck caddied for Johnson in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur the past two years, but she won’t be on the bag this week, having qualified for the championship last month.
“Megan threw a little wrench into the equation [by qualifying],” joked Johnson, who will instead have Symetra Tour caddie Matt Johnson (no relation), a fellow Sioux Falls, S.D., native, on the bag at Norwood Hills.
Thorny Lea is also the home course of Matt Parziale, who won the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur and finished as the co-low amateur in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Johnson noted an additional parallel as she attempts to replicate clubmate Parziale’s USGA accomplishment.
“I found out a few days ago that Norwood Hills has the same course architect as Thorny Lea: Wayne Stiles,” said Johnson. “Some of the guys who work on our Ping PGA Tour van played there when the PGA Championship was at Bellerive this summer and they said it was an awesome course. If I had known they were playing it, I would have told them to take a few notes.”
There’s no such thing as too much preparation.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.