Today is Thursday, August 24, 2017

Teeing it up with the big boys

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The past year was the best Ive had professionally, said Johnson, who won more than $17,000 from the Tennessee PGA. His victory last fall as the state club pro champion earned him entry into the FedEx St. Jude Classic that begins June 7 at TPC Southwind in Memphis.

Im sure the first shot will probably be a little nervous, he said about his tee time a week from tomorrow. I just wanna have fun and enjoy that experience. I have no expectations and am hoping to play the best golf I can those days. I just want to play good, and it will be great if I make the cut.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=49|imageid=293|displayname=0|float=right}

Johnson, who lives in Mt. Juliet with his wife Jennifer and daughters Kaylee, 11, and Alli, 8, has played the Southwind course about a dozen times and that is where he won the state club pro championship, so he knows the course.

He plans to hit Southwind for practice rounds next Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he has tee times so that he and 16 of his friends can play on a nearby course. About 20 to 30 of his pals and Lebanon Country Club members plan to follow him during the tournament. Serving as his caddy will be friend and club member Casey Moore of Lebanon.

The club pro was born and raised in Nashville where he attended McGavock High School before going to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he played on the golf team.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=49|imageid=290|displayname=0|float=left}Nashboro Village (golf course) is where I grew up. I started playing there in 1976 when I was 14, he said. How lucky I was. My dad would drop me off every day in the summer, and I spent all of my growing up at the golf course. I worked, Id bring up the golf carts, played golf all day, put the carts up at night, and I learned how to be around people.

Lebanon Golf and Country Club head golf professional Audie Johnson offers private lesson to the public ($50 per hour). He will host a junior golf clinic for youngsters ages 7 to 17 in July. For information about club membership, lessons and the clinic, call Johnson at 444-5010.

I didnt take a lot of lessons growing up. I just played every day, and I tried to play with the best, Johnson said. He turned professional in 1985 and served as head golf pro at Nashboro Village from 1996 until 2003 when he became head pro at the Lebanon club.

The golfer says the best part of his game is his experience34 years of playing competitivelyand his chipping and putting. He only practices three hours a week.

I dont practice a lot. I did a lot of practicing in high school and college. I dont want to learn how to play practice. That doesnt teach you how to play. I dont play much golf unless its competitive, he said.

Unless hes competing in a tournament, Johnson can be found at the Lebanon club from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. most days, where he handles everything related to golf from memberships, lessons and club events to selling golf equipment.

Johnson is extremely proud of the greens on the course this summer. We got new Bermuda grass greens last year, he beamed. Our golf course is better than its ever been.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=49|imageid=292|displayname=0|float=right}

As a Titleist staff player, Johnson uses only Titleist golf clubs and golf balls.

Titleist flew me out to Carlsbad, Calif., in March to get fitted with 2012 equipment. They make sure I get the best of everything. I went through a whole day of fitting, he said of the fringe benefits of having a solid year from tee to green.

Since he turns 50 in July, the PGA Senior tour door opens for him as well as club pro tournaments for seniors.

Will I become a senior tour player? Probably not. Will I enter a few tournaments? Im thinking about it, said Wilson Countys most successful professional golfer. All Im ready to do now is get prepared for the next few events.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at

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