Yancey Johnson finished his final round in the Greenville County Amateur with a two shot lead over the field. When his friends tried to congratulate him, he told them that it was too early for any congratulations.
“I tried not to take it for granted because you never know what can happen in golf,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen people knock it in from the fairway, so I’m a little superstitous that way. Don’t celebrate until its over,” he added.
Playing in the second to last group Johnson posted a 2-under par 70. He started the day three shots behind second round leader Bryan Newton. The Holly Tree golfer took the lead by shooting a 4-under par 68 on Saturday.
Johnson not only had to get past Newton, but he had to make up ground on three other golfers. Former champions Chris Essay and Marcus Grumbles along with Robert Lutomski all were in front of Johnson.
In the final round Johnson was able to carve out a one shot lead over several golfers who appeared to be on the verge of catching the leader.
“When I got to 14 with a one shot lead, I knew I needed to make some birdies to build up a cushion. I only birdied 17, but that was enough,” he said.
Mike Hartin and Corey Slocum were playing in the same group with Johnson. Both golfers had their chances to keep pace with him.
Hartin started his final round in a tie with Johnson. He worked his way into a share of the lead, but a double-bogey and two bogeys kept him scrambling all day.
“I had a four-putt green on Saturday and missed a short birdie putt on 17,” said Hartin. “I had some chances, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of them,” he said after finishing with a 1-over par 73.
Slocum also had several chances to catch Johnson on Sunday. He finished the tournament with an even par round of 72. It was good enough to tie for second place, but not good enough to catch the leader.
“I thought I would have to shoot in the 60s to have a chance today,” said Slocum. “I got off to a terrible start on the first hole when I hit it way over the green and gave up two shots,” he said.
With the two challengers in Johnson’s group finishing two shots behind him, the only golfer who still had a chance to tie the clubhouse leader was Newton.
Newton fell off the lead by the 11th hole when a wayward shot and a troublesome putter prevented him from staying in front of the field.
“I had one bad shot on 11,” said Newton. “On Saturday I had the putter rolling , but I didn’t make any putts today. Nobody in our group was really playing well and I think we all had some negative feelings,” he said.
However, Newton scrambled his way to the final hole and needed a miracle shot from the fairway to go in the hole to force a playoff.
Newton hit a good shot into the green,but it did not threaten the hole and Johnson finally could celebrate his first Greenville County Amateur title.
“It was steady. I kept the ball in play and made the putts when I needed to,” he said.
The former college basketball player has spent the last 13 years learning to play golf with the goal of adding his name to those on the Leon Gravley Memorial Trophy as a county champion.
“My name is on a trophy with a lot of guys that I looked up to when I first started playing. Those guys are good and I would like to be on that level someday. For me this is very gratifying, it took a lot of hard work,” concluded Johnson.
Newton, Hartin and Slocum all finished in a tie for second place two shots out of the lead. Geno Berchiatti and former champions Marcus Grumbles and Eassy finished in a tie for fifth place at 217.
Rounding out the top-10 were Robert Lutomski and Derrick Oyervides finishing at 218 in a tie for eighth. Former champion Todd Hendley led a group of four golfers including Casey Owens, Tyler Tucker and Matthew Hopper who shot a 220 total to tie for tenth place.
Flight winners included, First Flight – John Henderson, Second Flight – Craig Hall, Third Flight – Carter Bingham.
The annual Allison Cup which goes to the Greenville County club that has the highest finishers in the field was won by Holly Tree Country Club.
Golfers who finished in the top-20 are eligible to be selected to play in the annual Cyder Cup Matches scheduled for October at Green Valley. The matches pit the leaders from the Greenville County Amateur against their counterparts from the Spartanburg County Amateur.
Proceeds from the fund raising event goes to the First Tee Chapters in Greenville and Spartanburg.
Interview with Yancey Johnson