Author: Jim Vastyan
Joey Johnson, a sophomore at Missouri State, captured the 106th Missouri Amateur Championship at Blue Hills Country Club outside Kansas City on Sunday, June 23rd. Johnson’s 7 & 6 victory came over Mizzou standout Ryan Zech – who was runner-up in the 36-hole qualifying segment and probably the slim favorite in the finals. Joey, a friendly and engaging young player from Ozark, MO., turned out to be not so friendly on the golf course as he vanquished 5 accomplished players in the match play segment by a 3 & 1 margin or better leading up to the Championship match.
As is often the case in match play, the final score is not reflective of what was a tight and well-played battle. Johnson got off to a shaky start with a pull hook opening tee shot that led to a conceded par win for Zech. Joey squared the match with a beautiful approach on #3 and a 6-footer for birdie but promptly went back to 1-down with a 3-putt on the treacherous 4th green. Zech returned the favor by missing a downhill 4-footer on the par-5 6th to bring the match back to AS and lost the 7th with a poor chip that led to a bogey. He added to Johnson’s lead with a 3-putt on the 8th to go 2-down. Johnson never trailed from there, though Zech birdied 9 with a conceded tap-in to get back to 1-down.
Birdies were a rarity as the Blue Hills greens confounded these competitors just as they had baffled the field all week. Johnson’s steady play in the morning round proved the difference as he made 12 straight pars from the 5th through the 16th to stretch his lead to 3-up before a bogey at 17 reduced his advantage to 2 heading into the lunch break.
The competitors and their families enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the beautiful Blue Hills clubhouse. General Manager Rich Fairman presented everyone with a commemorative book, BLUE HILLS CC: THE FIRST CENTURY 1912-2012 and gave a brief presentation on the rich history of the club that was hosting this its 7th Amateur Championship. (Second only to the 8 hosted by St. Joseph CC.) Fairman and PGA Professional Todd Loechler and their staffs were gracious hosts during the entire Championship. They clearly viewed the event as a “plus” for this family-oriented club whose members embraced the event and closely followed the action. One member, multiple club champion Tom Leonard, volunteered to caddy for Zech in match play after narrowly missing being among the low 64 qualifiers. They quickly formed an effective and amiable partnership, though even Leonard’s home-course knowledge of the greens failed to produce enough birdie putts for Zech to stay with the young Mr. Johnson.
The afternoon round started well for Ryan as he made a brilliant eagle on the reachable par-5 opening hole. His drive was well around the corner of the dogleg and he played a beautiful 3-wood to…
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