RENO, Nev. (July 8, 2017) — Daren Johnson birdied four of his first nine holes in the 2017 Nevada State Amateur Championship and cruised to a four-stroke victory. Sixty golfers–30 from the Southern Nevada Golf Association and 30 from the Northern Nevada Golf Association–battled it out over the 54-hole championship. Johnson, representing Southern Nevada Golf Association, finished up at 11-under-par at the tournament held July 6-8 at Genoa Lakes Golf Club in Reno. –By Bill Bowman.
Josh Goldstein (SNGA) finished second, four shots back while Steve Sear (NNGA) was third, another stroke back. Philip Rowe, an assistant coach at UNLV and representing the SNGA, tied for fourth with Joo Ho Lee (NNGA) at -4. Next was Ed Fryatt (SNGA) who tied for sixth with Grant McKay (SNGA) at -2.
The early tournament drama belonged to Johnson as he opened the event with a first-day lead after carding a 6-under-par 66. He had seven birdies on the day with a lone bogey on the 18th. That gave him a two-stroke lead over three golfers at -4. It was another three shots back to five golfers at -1.
“That first day went really smooth for me,” Johnson said. “I had one of the best stats rounds I’ve ever had. I hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens and had 26 putts. That was just ideal. I was scrambling a little more on the last two days.”
But Johnson managed to keep up the pressure the second day as he added a 2-under-par 70 to his total. The round included another three birdies and a lone bogey–again on the 18th hole. Goldstein (SNGA) and Rowe (SNGA) kept up the pace as they also fired 70s to be just two strokes back.
“Friday was interesting,” Johnson said of the second round. “I had just one birdie on the front nine and wasn’t really going anywhere. Then I made a bogey on 10 and parred 11. The 12th hole was key. I sat over a 20-foot birdie putt and knew if I stroked it well, this would be the putt where I started my second round. It went in and I didn’t look back.”
That set up Saturday’s finale where Johnson again played solid golf to post the victory. He had four birdies on the day as he carded a three-under-par 69. He was four-under for the day until posting his lone bogey of the round–for the third straight day–on the 18th hole.
“This is just unbelievable for my confidence,” Johnson said of the victory. “It’s the biggest win of my career by far. If anything, it gives me more of a boost to keep working hard to get to the next level. I’m more determined than ever to keep improving.”
Johnson, who was born and raised in Southern California, is finishing up an MBA at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. His plans are to move to Laughlin after he finishes school in August which is why he hooked up with the SNGA.
“I really wanted to play some competitive golf in the area and the SNGA gives me that chance,” he said. “I’m basically shooting between SoCal, the Bay Area and Las Vegas.”
The move to Laughlin fits his future plans perfectly. “It’s close to SoCal and Las Vegas…I get the best of both worlds,” he said. “I’ll keep focusing on golf for now. After I move, I’ll see if my career takes off or if my golf career takes off.”
Sear, the top finisher for the NNGA and the 2015 and 2016 champion, said he played consistent but never got on a roll.
“Going into Saturday’s final round, I figured I’d have to shoot a 67 to even have a chance and it turns out even that wouldn’t have been good enough,” Sear said. “It was attainable until I bogeyed the easiest hole on the course, the par-5 13th.”
He added he lacked chances to score. “I never gave myself many good opportunities,” he said. “I needed my best stuff to compete and I just didn’t have it.”
Eight players finished the three-day event under par.
2017 Nevada State Amateur Final Results