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Zach Johnson ( 1976 - )  Category ( Sports_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson wasn't considered the best golfer on his high school (Regis High in Cedar Rapids, IA) or college (Drake University) team. He's not especially large (5-11, 160), doesn't hit the ball very far (145th in driving distance on the PGA tour last year) and keeps a low public profile.

Nevertheless, Johnson stuck his head above the national sports radar in 2007 with a surprise victory in the prestigious Masters, and he's been gaining a following ever since.

Born Feb. 24, 1976 in Iowa City, Johnson started playing golf at the age of 10, eventually discarding several other sports to hone in on what became his speciality. His high school team won an Iowa state title his senior year, and he played on two Missouri Valley Conference champions at Drake, turning pro in 1998.

Before embarking on his golf career, Johnson sold shares in himself for $500 each. That helped support him until his winnings began to kick in.

Ironically, for someone who has become known as one of the more devout Christians on the PGA circuit, Johnson first attracted attention on the Hooter's tour, winning its last three events of 2001 and earning the nickname "Back-toBack-to-Back Zach."

His first PGA victory came in the 2004 Bell South Open in Atlanta, witnessed by 10 members of his Iowa "syndicate."

"It started out as a business relationship," he said in his biography on the official PGA Website, "but ended up as a business family."

He didn't win again until the Masters three years later, where he survived by two shots over Tiger Woods, Rory Sabbatini and Retief Goosen on a frigid week that produced the first over-par score in their event since Jack Burke won in 1956.

"I'm Zach Johnson, and I'm from Cedar Rapids, IA, and I'm just a normal guy," is how Johnson began his post-Masters press conference.

He won another tournament later in the year, finishing eighth on the tour money list. A semi-slump in 2008 was followed by a revival in '09. On May 16, Johnson repeated as champion of the Valero Open in San Antonio, TX, beating James Driscoll on the first playoff hole. On the third day of the tournament, he shot an eye-popping 60, the second time he had gone that low on tour.

Johnson now lives in St. Simon's Island, GA, but frequently returns to Cedar Rapids, where he grew up and where a street is now named for him.

"I was definitely the better golfer in high school," Brian Rupp, who played No. 1 to Johnson's No. 2 on the Regis High team, told in 2008, "but that had changed by the time Zach left college."

Raised a Catholic, Johnson became a Baptist before marrying his wife Kim, with whom he has one son. In his quiet way, he has occasionally used his golf success as a platform to express his faith.

"This being Easter," he said after winning the Masters, "I cannot help but believe my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was walking with me." Image: Zach Johnson in 2007.

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