Bradley Johnson, 17
The future was out there,as if illuminated by neon.Johnson was a young man who seemed to have it all. He was a star golfer
and student and a person of modesty and manners."He had just unlimited talent, but more important he was just a great
individual to be around," said Al Del Greco, golf coach at Spain Park High School, which was reeling after Johnson was killed March 25 when his SUV collided with a tractor trailer outside his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. "He was just a great kid to coach." An honor student who loved the Auburn Tigers and dreamed of playing for them, Johnson was an AJGA All-American and U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up in 2005, losing 5 and 3 to Kevin Tway in the final, the best run by an Alabamian in the event's history. Johnson's Spain Park golf teammates took a while to recover from the tragedy but, wearing bracelets and caps honoring his memory, beat the odds and qualified for the state high school championship. The Jaguars, led by Trey Del Greco's medalist effort, finished third. "It was a huge accomplishment on their part," said Al Del Greco. "It makes you shake your head and think Bradley was looking down, shining good stuff on us."
|Photo: Sam Greenwood/USGA
March 27, 2006
BradleyJohnson, 17, of Birmingham, Ala., who finished runner-up to Kevin Twayin last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, died at the scene of a two-car accident Saturday in Lay Lake, Ala.
| Bradley Johnson played in the past two U.S.
Junior Amateurs and last year's U.S. Amateur.
(USGA Photo Archives)
According to Shelby County Deputy Coroner Kyle McDonnell, Johnson was driving one of the vehicles. Johnson had been a standout junior golfer at Spain Park High School. Earlier this year he was named a third-team Rolex Junior All-American by the American Junior Golf Association.
In his second U.S Junior last year at Longmeadow (Mass.) Country Club, Johnson lost to Tway, 5 and 3, in the 36-hole final. Any disappointment he had was momentary since he received an exemption into the following month’s U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., for being a finalist.
The mild-mannered Johnson wasn’t one to pursue the limelight.
" Normally I don’t have too many galleries,” he said of receiving little fanfare in the two U.S. Juniors he played. “Last year, I played either behind or ahead of [stroke-play medalist and 2003 U.S. Junior champion] Brian Harman’s match, so there’s about 600 people watching him and it almost looks like a [PGA] Tour event. And I’ve got my mom, my dad and my caddie and the other guy’s caddie watching our group. It’s still fun.”
The night before competing in his first Amateur, the well-spoken Johnson intimated how honored he was to be playing in the historic event but had no expectations when asked how he thought he could do, basing that on “averaging 270 yards off the tee.” He had a highlight shot on No. 9, his final hole, on the first day, chipping in from 25 feet out of the left greenside rough. He left Merion that day in awe, calling it the hardest course he had ever played.
"I didn’t hit a bad shot the first three holes and I was three over," said Johnson, who shot 12-over 152 and failed to qualify for match play. Still, he walked away from Merion smiling, saying he was happy he at least had the chance to play.
In 2004 he reached the Junior Amateur’s round of 16 at The Olympic Club, losing a 2-and-1 decision to eventual semifinalist Sunghoon Kang of Korea.
Johnson, modest in describing his athletic abilities, mentioned that he was the only player 5-foot-7 or shorter on his basketball team that couldn’t touch the rim.
Visitation will be Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, 2017 Columbiana Rd., Birmingham, Ala. 35216. The funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the church.
Story written by Ken Klavon, USGA Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Birmingham News contributed.
Bradley’s Legacy: Tournament honoring
Spain Park Golfer Benefits Others
By Lee Davis
Bradley Johnson excelled in the game of golf, but his real passion was reaching out to people. In 17 short years, Johnson developed more friendships than many octogenarians.
“Bradley loved people,” says Shari Johnson, his mother. “He had friends in all walks of life. Bradley always wanted people to be comfortable. For all of his accomplishments, Bradley wasn’t one to talk much about himself.”
Bradley Johnson’s promising young life came to a tragic end last March, when he was killed in an automobile accident. But even in death, Bradley is still giving to others.
The Bradley Johnson Memorial Foundation will sponsor its first ever benefit golf tournament March 28-29. Hosted by Spain Park High School, where Bradley was captain of the golf team, the tournament will feature high school teams from across Alabama, and proceeds will go to the Foundation to provide financial resources for junior golfers, including funding junior tournaments and providing scholarship money.
“Participating in junior golf is an expensive endeavor,” said Shari Johnson. “Between buying equipment, and having a place to practice to traveling expenses, it can all be cost prohibitive. Bradley’s loss was so tragic and horrible, but we were determined to make something positive come from it, which is why we started the foundation.”
Mrs. Johnson said the foundation had already raised more than $40,000.
If you’re looking from the outside, it might be hard to understand the depth to which Bradley Johnson’s loss was felt at his school, his community and the world of junior golf. One way to get a measure of it might be to visit the student parking lot at Spain Park. No other Spain Park student will ever park in Bradley’s old reserved space. It is forever marked with a mural, a golf bag and a flagstick in his memory.
“I still have a bucket of cards and letters we received from all over the country after Bradley’s death,” said Mrs. Johnson. “I haven’t even gone through them all yet. We had no idea Bradley’s passing had touched so many people that we don’t even know.”
For sure, Johnson’s achievements on the golf course were impressive. His career highlight might have come in July of 2005, when he barely missed winning the U.S. Junior Amateur, falling to Kevin Tway, the son of PGA golf pro Bob Tway. Just a few weeks before his death, Bradley was the low medalist in the Joe King Memorial Tournament at Auburn.
Johnson was so advanced with his game that he had already won the Altadena Valley Country Club men’s championship twice before he turned 17.
But it was the respect Bradley commanded away from golf that made him most impressive.
“Bradley was well liked by everybody,” said Brian Jones, a close friend and Spain Park golf teammate.” He was always smiling. Bradley meant a lot to our whole school, not just the athletes or the golf team.”
Bradley’s high level of maturity, even at an early age, really made him stand out, according to Hugh Johnson, his father.
“It’s hard to put into words, it always amazed me, that even when Bradley was smaller, we thought of him as a young adult, because he was so mature, and loved to talk to people of all ages, and how they all wanted to be around him,” said Johnson.
And despite all the acclaim Bradley received, he never became impressed with himself, his father said.
“After Bradley was featured playing on the Golf Channel, I remember that there were several local TV stations at the airport to do a story on him,” Hugh said. “When Bradley saw the TV trucks and the cameras, he asked ‘why are they here?” It really didn’t occur to Bradley that they were at the airport because of him.”
Bradley’s biggest fan of all may have been his younger brother Michael. “There was no envy or jealousy,” said Hugh Johnson. “Michael was so proud of Bradley. And Bradley, although as the older brother he wouldn’t always let on, was so proud of Michael, too.”
But perhaps it was Bradley’s role as an encourager that most inspired the idea for the Foundation. “Bradley was always encouraging people of all ages, whether it was in golf or anything else,” said his father. “That was really his second nature. This Foundation will help and encourage junior golfers who might otherwise not have the opportunity.”
In life, Bradley Johnson gave a lot. Through the Bradley Johnson Memorial Foundation, he’s giving even more.
The 6th Annual Bradley Johnson Memorial
Wednesday and Thursday, April 11 and 12, 2012,
Greystone Golf and Country Club, Legacy Course Birmingham, Alabama.
There will be a noon shotgun on Wednesday, buffet dinner follows play. There will be a 9:30 am shotgun Thursday with awards folllowing play. The following teams will be participating: Spain Park, Hoover, Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Oak Mountain, Briarwood Christian, UMS Wright, Oneonta, Auburn, Shoals Christian, McGill-Toolen, Cullman, Huntsville, Trussville and Athens High Schools.
The event is open to the public. Following play on Wednesday, there will be a buffet dinner. We are pleased to have Mike Griffin, former Auburn University's Head Golf Coach as our guest speaker. Hank Johnson, PGA Teaching Professional and BJMF Board Member will also share his thoughts and love of the game. Ticketsfor the dinner will be available at the door.
For additional information, to volunteer, or to help sponsor this event, please email Shari Johnson at Shari@bjmf.org