Muskegon’s Aya Johnson Wins 101st Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship
SAGINAW – Muskegon’s Aya Johnson is back, and back is the key word for the winner of the 101st Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland at Saginaw Country Club.
The 21-year-old senior-to-be at the University of Wisconsin is able to swing pain free for the first time since 2015 back surgery and on Friday she turned back Grand Valley State University golfer Katelyn Chipman of Canton 3 and 2 in the championship match.
“This means a lot,” she said. “I’ve worked hard not only on golf, but healing and strengthening different parts of my body. I was scared. I had to sit around a lot and nobody knew if I would be okay or if I could play. I’m so happy to be out here and to win is so far beyond that.”
Johnson, who last week won a Michigan sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in San Diego in August, lost three consecutive holes with bogeys early in the round and Chipman had a 2-up lead as they walked to the No. 6 tee.
“I was talking to my caddie (Jacqueline Setas) and I told her we are not losing today, not today, not here,” she said. “I had to fight. I hit some bad shots early, but I started swinging within myself and started hitting more fairways and greens.”
Johnson made a two-putt par on No. 9 when Chipman’s approach shot hit a tree branch and the match went to the back nine all square. Johnson took a 1-up lead at No. 11 with a par save while Chipman, who had also missed the green, failed to save par.
Finally it was Chipman’s driver that brought the match to a conclusion. She hit a tee shot through trees into an adjacent fairway and lost No. 15 to another par by Johnson, and then at 16 hit her first tee shot out-of-bounds and eventually conceded the hole.
“Yes, the driver got a little away from me and I left the last two holes wide open,” Chipman said. “It was tough loss, but she played really well and I struggled near the end. She is a very good player, so congrats to Aya.”
Johnson, sticking to a game plan of making pars on the tight tree-lined course, turned back Anika Dy of Traverse City in a morning semifinal match, while Chipman had to go 19 holes in a tense match with Texas State golfer Sarah White of Kentwood.
The former high school Miss Golf in Michigan (2012), Johnson said the win was a thrill especially on the heels of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
“For the last four or five years my goal has been to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and win the Michigan Amateur, and this summer I did both,” she said. “I had a lot of confidence coming off the (U.S. Amateur qualifier) and I stayed calm and composed and I didn’t force anything. I didn’t get too worked up, and it all worked out just perfectly.”
Chipman, who will be a sophomore at Grand Valley in the fall, said her 19-hole morning match with White was tough, but she didn’t think fatigue was a factor in the afternoon.
“I was ready to go,” she said. “I’m very proud of myself for the whole week. I played well and hit shots where I would give myself a pat on the back. I have never made the Sweet 16, and then to go to the quarters, then semis and make the finals was a little surprising, but I’m honored to have made it all the way to the end.”
Johnson said she noticed the great players in the field and the names on the trophy.
“It’s hard not to notice, but I can’t put myself in the back seat to anyone,” she said. “I had to realize I’m as good as anyone who is here if I was going to win. The last few years I’ve really struggled with the back injuries, and so I’m so happy to be playing, to be out here playing with great players and against great players. My back feels fine. I feel great.”
Results and Match Play Bracket: Find them at gam.org
Attached photo: Aya Johnson hitting a tee shot in the championship match.
About the GAM: Founded in 1919, the Golf Association of Michigan is the governing body for amateur golf in the state. As a not-for-profit organization, the GAM’s purpose is to promote, preserve and serve the game of golf. The GAM, served by over 250 dedicated volunteers, provides membership to more than 55,000 golfers and more than 470 Michigan golf courses, conducts over 30 amateur championships, oversees 18 USGA qualifying events, administers the GAM/USGA Handicap System and measures and rates almost 70 courses a year for the USGA. Learn more at www.gam.org.
via Greg Johnson