CEDAR RAPIDS — From an early age, Ian Johnston trusted that hard work would lead to reward.
The more time he dedicated, the more determined he became to reap the rewards. The effort and patience paid dividends this summer for the Cedar Rapids Prairie senior.
“I know I have put in the work and the results are paying off,” Johnston said. “That is what I’m very happy about and what I’ve been dreaming of. That’s basically been my goal since I was young, trying to put in as much work as possible.”
Johnston won six tournaments during the summer, including the Iowa Junior Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, and will look to extend that success into his senior season. Johnston will open his final varsity campaign Thursday at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls.
“This is my last year and I want to end on a good note,” said Johnston, who tied for 12th at the 2017 state meet. “Hopefully, I get to state and try winning state. That is my goal this year.”
He was a key component in Prairie qualifying as a team for the first time in school history last season, averaging a little more than 76 per round with a combined adjusted average of 39.32.
State served as a learning experience, even though it paled in comparison to the events he played since October.
“It was a good experience for him,” Prairie Coach Erik Columbus said. “He competes so much on a national level it wasn’t as big of a deal.”
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The summer was busy and monumental for Johnston. He traveled across state lines to compete in tournaments, including events in Missouri and Michigan. In the same week in mid-July, Johnston committed to play golf at University of South Dakota and then captured his first American Junior Golf Association title, winning the UHY LLP CPA’s Junior Championship at The Legends Golf Course in Eureka, Mo.
He added a title at the Rotary Pribyl Wednesday, proving it wasn’t a hoax. He can shoot as well as anyone.
“It propelled me in a great direction, because it made me have a lot more confidence,” Johnston said. “I knew I could achieve the scores.
“I’m super happy about my progress. This entire year has been crazy. Winning an AJGA event and committing in the same week is just insane. My game has escalated so much over the last year.”
Columbus is not shocked by Johnston’s feats. He knows what Johnston is capable of each round and can accomplish whatever he has set in his sights.
“My expectations are pretty high,” Columbus said. “I wouldn’t be surprised with anything.”
Johnston capped the offseason with rounds of 68 and 69 for a two-round total of 1-under 137. His birdie on the par-3 15th and three straight pars helped him edge the field by one stroke. It was a great way to cap the summer and create momentum for his last prep season.
“Off the tee was phenomenal,” Johnston said. “My driving was great. I didn’t miss many fairways and that course is super tight.
“I definitely feel confident over the ball right now.”
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Johnston said his all-around game is coming together now. He said that chipping and putting have been improvements recently, noting golfers can save the most strokes from within 30 yards. Columbus has noticed strides, especially around the green, allowing him to shoot in the 60s and preventing him from being satisfied in the mid-70s.
“Chipping and putting has gotten better, making pars where maybe he wouldn’t,” Columbus said. “He’s getting up and down more.
“He expects more of himself. He’s raised the bar.”
Johnston is ready to get right back to work toward a state crown. He has less than a day between his last big meet of the summer and his first notable varsity meet. Johnston is not a fan of breaks and prefers to get right back on the course anyway.
“I really like playing because it makes me grind more,” Johnston said. “It makes me feel sharper.”
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