Hometown fans celebrate Johnson's Open win

By Jeremiah Davis
Published on
Hometown fans celebrate Johnson's Open win

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Elmcrest Country Club was unusually quiet around 1:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon. No one appeared to be out on the course, the tennis courts had just a pair of players hitting back and forth and the pool was vacant.
A half dozen golf bags sat idle outside the pro shop, and inside, a group of nervous onlookers moved around the TV hanging in the corner – beside it a portrait of the man about to win the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
It was just one of the dozens of businesses, bars, or golf course club houses to cease productivity and watch Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson make a little more history with his second major championship victory. Many within the city are deeply invested in how he does, and a win of this magnitude resonates.
"I think the community is incredible in their support in all times, but particularly when he's in the hunt like this. I think this community has a great love affair with Zach, and I think he returns it," said Chairman of the Zach Johnson Foundation Pat Cobb. "Every time he's ever introduced at a golf tournament, he's 'Zach Johnson, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.' He has such pride in this community and what it's done for him, and the community loves him right back."
Cedar Rapids isn't new to supporting championship-level natives, having gone through this with Kurt Warner when he was playing in the NFL.
But unlike Super Bowl Sunday, Johnson's second career major win came on a Monday afternoon when people were supposed to have gone back to work. Whether it was at the TransAmerica office in Northwest Cedar Rapids – a company that sponsors Johnson – or at a local bar, people were letting their bosses know they weren't getting back to work until the playoff with Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen was finished.
Lifelong friend and owner of the Sag Wagon and Third Base Brewery, Joe Denny, was in that boat himself – only he got to be the boss to let his employees handle things while he watched his friend over in Scotland.
"We were busy, and then people were struggling trying to figure out if they were going to stick around for the playoff or get back after their lunch break," Denny said through a laugh. "We had a couple guys outside calling the office, telling them they were going to be a little late. It erupted pretty good when Oosthuizen missed that putt.
"I wasn't even paying attention to anyone else but the TV. My employees were taking care of the customers, I think. I hope, anyway."
Golfers at Elmcrest weren't the only ones to suspend their rounds or come off the course to watch Johnson, either. Over at the other St. Andrews Golf Club – the one on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids – there was a boom in business after the tournament was over.
Course worker John Hasson said he was told a dozen or so people stuck around in the clubhouse to watch, then even more showed up after filled with inspiration.
"They come in and order buckets just because Zach won, they got the fever and wanted a bucket of balls. I've had 10 people come in and say that," Hasson said. "They came in, gave their key in and stopped to have a beer and watch the rest of the match. Every time he finishes good, we get business. They'll say, 'We were watching Zach and got the fever,' and want to come in to play."
The connection Cedar Rapids community members have with the Cedar Rapids Regis grad certainly has to do with his success on the golf course – he's now got 12 PGA Tour tournament titles – but what seems to be a love affair stems from a few things.
He's widely considered a humble and thoughtful person, and that's evidenced by the work he's done with kids through his foundation. His first golf coach and resident PGA Professional at Elmcrest, Larry Gladson, said his phone was blowing up before and after Johnson clinched the win, and what he hears from people echoes how he feels about his former pupil.
"He means a lot to our community. The Zach Johnson Foundation, what's going on with that – and that was his and Kim's idea to bring it to Cedar Rapids – to help children and it that way he helps tremendously," Gladson said. "In the game of golf, he's been great not only for this club and our city, but also our state because all the youth growing up get a chance to watch Zach. They know he came right here from Iowa. And look where he is – he's on golf's biggest stage.
"Now Iowans have a reason to watch the PGA Tour on television. And that's nice that he's out there competing, but he's doing more than just competing. He is at a very high level."
As soon as Oosthuizen's putt rolled past the hole, the pro shop erupted, the few inside hugged each other and traded high-fives. After listening to his ESPN interview, those waiting to golf slowly made their way out to their bags and carts, still buzzing from what they just saw.
Gladson had delayed coming in himself, watching at home, and like so many others put off his scheduled tee time for the day. Hitting the course after one of Cedar Rapids' favorite sons did the community proud was that much more satisfying.
"When I saw how today was going, I called the guys and said, 'Hey, let's wait,' Gladson said through a wide smile. "We'll go out and play a round a little happier than normal."
This article was written by Jeremiah Davis from The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.