Fort Myers, Florida – When Shannon Johnson steps up to the first tee on The Long Mean course at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Ft. Myers, playing in the 35th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, she’ll have a smile on her face knowing that this is exactly where she wants to be.
It’s been four years since she walked off the 18th green at the Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018 as a national champion – winning the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
After reaching the final 16 in 2019 at Forest Highlands Golf Course, Flagstaff, Arizona, and the semifinals in 2021 at Berkeley Hall Club, Bluffton, South Carolina, she knows that this week might be her chance to win it again.
Shannon Johnson, a member at Thorny Lea GC in Brockton, Mass is one of America’s top female amateur golfers. She lives in Norton now but was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Not surprisingly, given her environment, her first sport was hockey. She was one of the top players on her Sioux Falls Flyers girls’ team. She played golf at O’Gorman High School winning the state championship her senior year. Her high school golf coach, Rod Garrison, once said “She had a lot of athletic ability, but the thing that really stuck out was how competitive she was. Every day she’d show up ready to take on the world.”
Shannon left behind an impressive resume with 13 state titles in her native South Dakota, including four straight Women’s Amateur titles between 2003-06. She was a two-time Mountain West All-Conference selection at the University of New Mexico before transferring to Indiana University her senior year to play with the “Hoosiers” women’s golf team. During her first season at Indiana she was named the Big Ten Women’s Golfer of the Week twice. Her first award came after blistering the Boulder Creek Golf Course with her school record of 5-under par 211 (68-75-68) at the UNLV Spring Invitational.
Her second award came following her performance at the Illini Spring Invitational. Johnson became the first ‘Hoosier‘ in school history to win the award twice in the same season. Shannon went on to a successful senior year at Indiana University but decided after graduating in 2006 that she would not seek the difficult and uncertain life of a tour pro. Instead, she landed a job as a sales representative for Ping, the golf club manufacturer, often putting on product demonstrations at courses and driving ranges.
Since moving to Massachusetts ten years ago, Johnson has become one of the top names in women’s amateur golf. She continues to add her name to the record books as she competes in local, regional and national competitions. I had a chance this week to ask Shannon a few questions about the upcoming U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
NEG: Is it any different coming back as the 2018 champion in terms of your preparation for the week and maybe the confidence you have heading into this year’s tournament?
SJ: “I don’t try to do anything differently from a preparation standpoint. Having a full time job limits the amount of time I do get to practice, so when I do I try and make it meaningful. I have been working with a putting coach this year, so I have done a little more practice on the short game side than I have in past years. I do bring in more confidence to these national events, but every year is different.”
NEG: Have you had the chance to play the Long Mean course at Fiddlesticks Country Club? If yes, are you comfortable with the layout. If no, are you planning on playing the course prior to the tournament?
SJ: “I have not had a chance to play the Long Mean course yet, but will do so a few days before the event starts. I get more comfortable with the course as the week progresses, and my caddy and I really start to understand the green complexes as well. Most of the courses we play are one’s that we only get to see that week, so not having played it before doesn’t concern me.”
NEG: How do you block out distractions? Whether it’s the crowd, the media, or maybe even a difficult pairing?
SJ: “There are plenty of things that are outside of our control, but I feel I have played in so many events that there isn’t much that I haven’t seen or come across. I think the hardest part is having to keep up with work while I’m playing in these events. Work never stops, but trying to separate that when I get on the course can be a tough task”.
NEG: Playing in southern Florida in mid September could bring some difficult weather conditions. How do you prepare for these types of problems that could change course conditions during the tournament?
SJ: “Playing in the south during the summer/early fall months can be tough. Staying hydrated on and off the course is critical. We had a three week stretch of 90 degree plus days with high humidity in Boston in July, so I equated that to what it might feel like down in Florida. I tried to play a few extra times during that stretch to get ready. The event can be a very long week of golf, so trying to conserve your energy is key.”
Along with Shannon Johnson, there are six more women golfers from Massachusetts competing at Fiddlesticks Country Club this week. Tracy Welch (Winchester Country Club), Mary Mulcahy (Hatherly Country Club), Mary Chamberlain (Cummaquid Golf Club), Susan Curtin (Boston Golf Club), and Tracy Martin (Vesper Country Club) and friend and Thorny Lea clubmate Megan Buck
This talented group earned their “Ticket to the Tournament” though local qualifying tournaments at Walpole Country Club in Massachusetts or Laconia Country Club in New Hampshire. The 2022 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur consists of 18 holes of stroke play on Saturday Sept. 17 and 18 holes of stroke play on Sunday Sept. 18, after which 132 players will be reduced to 64 players for match play. There will be six rounds of match play, starting Monday Sept.19 with the Round of 64. The Round of 32 and Round of 16 will be played on Tuesday Sept. 20. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on Wednesday Sept. 21 and the championship will conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday Sept 22.
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