"I’m Zach Johnson, and I’m from Cedar Rapids, Iowa."
That was said in a press conference by a person who became quite famous on an Easter Sunday in April 2007 after winning the Masters golf tournament. The line still is remembered fondly in these parts.
When another fellow who is entitled to use that statement does so, however, bewilderment or wise cracks can follow.
So it is for Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids. Not the 42-year-old PGA Tour player who will hold his annual Zach Johnson Foundation Classic Monday at Elmcrest Country Club. But rather, Zach Johnson, a 39-year-old from Cedar Rapids who works in Kirkwood Community College’s continuing education department and has been involved with Theatre Cedar Rapids over the years.
“Just the other day, somebody called me at work and said he wanted information on a welding class,” Johnson said. “Before I could even respond to what he was looking for, he recognized my name and made a joke about the Zach Johnson from Cedar Rapids. Those types of interactions happen all the time.
“I’ve gotten thank-you notes from some area groups for some donations, like pin flags from the Ryder Cup or other tournaments, that were given to them for charity auctions.
“I’ve even gotten fan mail sent to my house, which is always kind of surprising to me. Because if people would look at the address and check the property value, they’d realize things probably don’t line up there.”
Let’s pause here to stress that this Zach Johnson isn’t complaining. Asked if he were a fan of the other Zach, he immediately replied “Absolutely. I don’t play golf much anymore, but I’ve followed it quite a bit. I’m a fan of the sport, and I’m a fan of him and his career.
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“He and Kurt Warner, being two upstanding and positive individuals, I think they show Cedar Rapids in a good light. It’s cool to see that on a national stage.”
This Zach Johnson had heard of that Zach Johnson before most of us had.
“Probably the first time was when I was in middle school,” Kirkwood’s Zach said. “I would often get people asking me ‘Did I see your name in the paper this weekend?’ I would always kind of wonder ‘What are you talking about?’ They’d say ‘Are you a golfer?’ They’d see him winning a local tournament or playing for his high school team.
“My dentist was one of his original backers at Elmcrest (when golfer Johnson turned pro after college).”
And, in 2006 this Zach worked at Transamerica, where he would see photos of the other Zach Johnson since Transamerica is his longtime sponsor.
Being Zach Johnson from Cedar Rapids is something this Zach has used as material when he’s performed during open-mic nights at Penguin’s Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids, including an extended version of this story:
“The funniest-slash-weirdest thing is the time I volunteered for a Special Olympics golf tournament, not even thinking about using an alias or anything like that. Of course, I show up and realize how big a mistake that was. They’re waiting for Zach Johnson to come and check in as a volunteer.
“That got quite a few laughs, and it also got quite a few confused looks. That’s still a story my old co-workers tell.”
It’s not like “Zach Johnson” is an uncommon name. In fact, a Zach Johnson from Utah will join the 12-time PGA Tour-winner in the field at next month’s PGA Championship.
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“I went to Kennedy High School,” the Zach Johnson of this story said, “and there was a Zach Johnson one year ahead of me. We both were in the high school band.
“There was a problem with that. He got into more trouble than me — not as a delinquent, but with parking tickets at school. Sometimes they would end up on my record and I’d have to go to the office and explain why my car wasn’t the one that got a ticket that day.”
Zach Johnson, Cedar Rapids native of Cedar Rapids, has never met Zach Johnson, Cedar Rapids native who now lives in St. Simons Island, Ga.
“If I did,” he said, “I’d like to thank him for not besmirching the name of Zach Johnson. It could have been worse, for both of us.
“I’d also like to wish him luck. If he wants to keep succeeding, that’s fine with me. And if he ever feels like sharing in any of that with me, I’d be up for that, too.”
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