Overcomes eight-stroke deficit in final round for championship
By Jason Shoot
Jason Johnstone could have been satisfied with finishing second behind Havre teammate Nick Obie at this year's Class A state high school golf tournament.
But Johnstone is not that type of person, and he sure as heck isn't that type of golfer.
Johnstone made up a staggering eight-stroke deficit in the final round to rally back and claim the Steve Schwartz Memorial Trophy as the lowest-scoring junior player at the 84th annual Montana State Amateur Golf Championship in Kalispell, July 18-21.
Johnstone, 17, fired a four-round score of 305, finishing the tournament with a two-stroke victory. He also finished 21st overall in the state amateur standings.
Down eight strokes in the final round, Johnstone's chances of earning the award were obviously not very good.
"The kid leading it didn't have his best day, and he let me back in it," Johnstone said. "After the turn (ninth hole) I was 1-over par, and I figured if I could hold on here I may have a shot at winning."
Johnstone continued his steady play, and by the 14th hole he had moved into a tie for first atop the leaderboard. By the 18th, he was ahead by two strokes.
Two rounds earlier on No. 18, Johnstone had hooked a drive out of bounds and cost himself a couple strokes. With the junior title on the line, however, he ripped a drive right down the heart of the fairway.
"For me there was a lot of pressure," he said. "But I hit it right down the middle of the fairway."
Johnstone said he had set three goals for himself: 1) all four rounds with a score under 80, 2) play in the championship flight, and 3) win the junior championship.
Without achieving either of the first two goals, the likelihood of achieving the third would have been almost non-existent.
Johnstone opened the tournament with a sub-standard 79, but came right back in the second round with a 74 highlighted by two eagles. A 76 in the third round gave him an outside chance at the title.
Johnstone, who fine-tunes his game 20-30 hours each week during the summer, said golf is "my favorite sport by far. This is the one I focus on most."
He's also working on adding components of professional golfers' games to his own, particularly PGA Tour stars Ernie Els and Fred Couples.
"I like to watch their swings, and I try to apply theirs to my own," he said. "They're smooth, no glitches."
Johnstone, who said he still needs to perfect his short game before becoming a complete golfer, has another year playing high school golf at Havre and will get another crack at a state crown. After that, he is unsure what lies ahead.
"(NCAA) Division I would be fantastic," he said. "I'll look at anybody who wants to give me a scholarship. With some hard work and after a couple years on the driving range and around the practice green, I think I could be what it takes to play Division I."