Fort Sill Soldier Wins Armed Forces Golf Championship
October 4, 2007
By Tim Hipps
NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 4, 2007) - Col. Albert Johnson rallied from a three-stroke deficit in the final round to win the men\'s division of the 2007 Armed Forces Golf Championship last week.
The Fort Sill, Okla., Soldier shot a 1-under-par 71 to win the four-round tournament at even-par 288 on the Hornet Course at Aeropines Golf Club Sept. 22-26.
"What a wonderful way to go out," said Col. Johnson, a 28-year Army veteran who plans to retire in January. "To win this tournament is icing on the cake for my military golfing career."
A three-time winner at All-Army Trial Camp, this is Col. Johnson's first victory in eight Armed Forces Championship appearances. He made his Armed Forces debut as a second lieutenant with a fifth-place finish in 1980 at Fort Meade, Md., and twice over the years has won the silver medal.
"Being a naAfA-ve lieutenant, I thought that I would tour with the Army Golf Team for the year," recalled the 50-year-old native of Lawton, Okla. "I was that naAfA-ve until I realized that it was just a three-week deal. But I have made some friends through golf in this program that will last well beyond my military career, so it has been special."
Entering the final round at Oceana, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Perry of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, had a two-stroke lead over teammate 1st Lt. Ryan King of Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Col. Johnson, who was paired with the Air Force duo in the final group, was another stroke back. He quickly forged a three-way tie with birdies on the first two holes and played solidly the rest of the way.
With the exceptions of a double-bogey on No. 8 and a turning-point birdie on No. 9, Col. Johnson made par on every other hole.
"I played real well," Col. Johnson said. "I made two bad decisions all day long. I hit a 3-iron in the water on 5 ... but I was able to get up and down for a par. Then I made a really bad decision on the eighth tee: I hit the driver. I'd been hitting 3-wood and making par and birdie all week long."
His drive on No. 8 landed out of bounds and Col. Johnson scurried for a double-bogey. He quickly bounced back with a birdie on No. 9.
"After making double-bogey on eight, to turn right around and make birdie on nine, that was just solid," Col. Johnson said. "For me, that was probably the turning point of the day. It's always great to be in the heat and be in the hunt."
As they walked off the 16th green, 1st Lt. King revealed to Col. Johnson where they stood.
"Ryan King made a comment to me on the 16th green that he was two strokes behind me," confirmed Col. Johnson, who made a clutch, 3 A,A1/2-foot putt for par on No. 17. "That was the first time I ever knew, literally, where I stood. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I didn't know what Ryan's score was. I wasn't keeping it, and in reality, I really didn't care. I don't control his golf, I control mine.
"But I was glad that he told me," Col. Johnson continued. "Sometimes guys will tell you that to try to shake you up a little bit. I don't know if he was doing that. I think he was just trying to be competitive. But for me, I was glad to know because it was a chance to measure how well I responded. And I responded very, very well."
First Lt. King was responsible for keeping Col. Johnson's scorecard.
"I knew exactly where he was all day long," said 1st Lt. King, who finished second with a 290 total. "He's just a solid player. He hits fairways and he hits it on the green, and his putter never fails. Anything inside of ten feet, you just expect him to make it."
"I loved playing with him. He's a really good guy. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I'm happy with second."
Col. Johnson never golfed professionally but has enjoyed his share of amateur tournaments. In 2005, he qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and finished the year ranked 14th nationally among amateurs. Then stationed at Fort Monroe, Va., he also finished second in the 2005 Virginia State Golf Association Mid-Amateur.
With retirement looming at age 50, Col. Johnson has considered taking a shot at the PGA Seniors Tour, albeit a brief thought.
"I would. I do," he said. "It's not a question about the ability to hit golf shots because I can hit every golf shot that's out there. The question is: I'm married to a phenomenal wife and I have two kids who are both grown and I do love the game of golf - but to play it for a living, I don't know, because there is a huge difference between playing it well at the amateur level and playing well professionally and making a living."
Col. Johnson already has a job lined up as vice president for University Advancement at Cameron University, his hometown alma mater, so the senior circuit may have to wait.
This week, Col. Johnson is competing for Team USA in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire's 4th World Military Golf Championships on the Gary Player Golf Course in Sun City, South Africa. After Tuesday's second round, he was in a three-way tie for the lead.
(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs.)