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Joey Johnson wins Missouri Amateur golf title

Updated: 2013-06-24T04:35:07Z

By REBECCA FITZGERALD

The Kansas City Star

Six days, eight rounds and more than 150 holes later, a champion was crowned at the Blue Hills Country Club.

Missouri State rising sophomore Joey Johnson persevered through the grueling competition and won the 106th annual Missouri Amateur Championship.

Johnson, the 2012 Missouri Junior Match Play champion, ousted his last competitor, Mizzou upcoming junior Ryan Zech, 7 and 6 in the 36-hole final round.

Johnson is the first Missouri Amateur champion from Ozark, but he joins Matt Keith, the 2005 victor, to represent the Springfield area.

The victory surprised Johnson, who expected to do his best and bring his game. But Johnson said he wasn’t planning to stay all week.

Support from his family made it easy to stay focused, though, Johnson said. His 21-year-old brother, Adam, provided extra assistance, staying by his side as his caddy.

“He’s the smart one in the family,” Johnson laughed. “He helped me get those reads.” Adam steps in as Johnsons caddy at some tournaments when he isnt playing.

Johnson faced tough competition from the get-go, before even reaching Zech.

Johnson fought his way from the No. 32 seed, first defeating William Rosenfelt 3 and 1. He eliminated No. 1 Doug Albers 4 and 2 in the second and No. 16 Jacob Fair 4 and 3 in the third round. Johnson sent No. 9 Drew Hatten and No. 13 Brian Haskell home in the quarter and semifinals, respectively, by the same score, 3 and 1.

It wasn’t an easy week for Zech either, who said he was exhausted at the end. The Kearney native reached the finals by defeating Michael McGee of Kansas City in 21 holes. The day before, Zech defeated three-time Missouri Amateur champion Skip Berkmeyer 2 and 1.

That match meant a lot more than a path to the semifinals. Berkmeyer eliminated Zech last year in the semifinal round.

“It was everything it was expected to be,” Zech said. “We were familiar with each other and we knew it would be close and I was fortunate to come out top there.”

In the final round, Johnson had a slow start, trailing Zech until the seventh hole when he took his first lead. He continued through the rest of the morning round with his biggest lead at 3 up after the 16th.

By the time Johnson completed the ninth hole in the afternoon round, he already had a sense he had control of the game.

“The putt on nine...I did hit it a little hard, but luckily it went in,” Johnson said. “From there I knew just make pars, make him come chase me and I’ll be good.”

Johnson didn’t turn back from there, keeping his lead through the 30th hole when he was victorious.

The win was a confidence booster for the champion, who said he was happy with his overall performance.

“I didn’t always hit it how I wanted throughout the whole tournament, but grinding it out was key,” Johnson said.

To reach Rebecca Fitzgerald, send email to rfitzgerald@kcstar.com.

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