Story by Pat Payton, Sports Editor for the Journal Argus
“It was a grind out there today.”
They were the first words Mike Johnson said after winning the 2016 Men’s Club title Sunday at St. Marys Golf and Country Club.
In windy conditions, the big left-hander shot a 78 to edge Marty Rutledge by a single shot. Rutledge, who just missed sinking a birdie putt on No. 18, finished with a 77.
Johnson had a 151 two-day total, followed closely by Rutledge’s 152.
Everybody was chasing Jason Skipper after Saturday’s opening day. Skipper fired a one-under-par 71, and carried a two-lead on Johnson (73), a four-shot cushion on Rutledge (75) and a seven-shot lead on Dave Shepley (78) going into Sunday.
Johnson admitted that none of the golfers in the final group in ‘A’ Flight (the four with the best scores after opening day Saturday) had their ‘A’ games on Sunday.
“Saturday, I hit it really well, but didn’t make any putts,” Johnson said. “It was a frustrating day, which could have been a lot better.
“Today, I didn’t hit it quite as well, but your bad golf shots get exposed in the wind. I didn’t start making putts until the back nine.
“Actually, I played just well enough to win.”
Rutledge held a two-shot lead after 13 holes when Johnson double-bogeyed the par 4 hole. However, when Johnson parred the par 3 No. 14 hole and Rutledge double-bogeyed, the two were tied.
“The par on No. 14 was huge for me,” Johnson said. “It was probably the big turning point.”
The pivotal hole proved to be No. 16 when Johnson birdied the difficult par 3 hole to grab a two-shot cushion.
“When I birdied No. 16, that gave me a two-shot lead and then it was just match play against Marty,” Johnson said.
Johnson bogeyed the par 4 No. 18 hole, but hung on for the one-shot win when Rutledge had to settle for par.
Skipper shot an 82 on Sunday to finish with a 153 two-day total. The lefthander had a three-shot lead after the front nine, but both Johnson and Rutledge passed him on the back nine.
Shepley carded an 80 to finish with a 158 total score.
“Mike grinded well,” said Skipper, tipping his hat to his Ryder Cup teammate. “He played pretty steady golf.”
It’s the second Men’s Club title for Johnson, who was also crowned the champion in 2013.
“2013 was a lot different because I was playing great that year,” he recalled. “I think I went four-under (par) for the two days.
“This year was more of a struggle . . . more of a grind.
“I definitely won this year without my best stuff, but none of us had our best stuff. We were all struggling out there . . . it was a grind.”
Jason Skipper was very pleased with his early-morning round of 71 on Saturday to open the two-day tournament.
‘Skip’ collected five birdies during his solid 38-33 round.
“I hit my driver down the middle,” he said. “I made three putts from over 20 feet and that helped. I never got into trouble today.
“I’ve been on a bit of a roll lately. It’s my third under-par round in August,” he noted.
Finishing second behind Mike Johnson gave Marty Rutledge (75-77-152) the ‘A’ Flight title. Jason Skipper (71-82-153) was runner-up.
The ‘B’ Flight winner was Glenn Bertrand (78-79-157). Runner-up was Troy Carter (82-77-159).
The ‘C’ Flight winner was Paul Shackleton (85-81-166). Runner-up was Ron Howard (87-92-179).
Teenager Sam Watt (91-89-180) was the ‘D’ Flight winner. Runner-up was Tom Charette (96-86-182).