DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Golfer Zach Johnson doesn’t get back to his native Iowa much, though he’s grateful for the home-state support he gets all the time on the PGA Tour.
Johnson, who graduated from Drake before joining the tour, stopped in Des Moines on Tuesday to accept the an award from his alma mater for contributions to his profession.
Johnson got his start in professional golf thanks to a group of Iowa businessmen who provided financial support to the unknown golfer early in his career.
Now a full-fledged regular on the tour, Johnson said he’s honored by the vocal support he receives from fans clad in Drake and Iowa Hawkeyes gear seemingly everywhere he goes.
“It’s every day, it’s every week. It’s overseas, it’s domestically. It’s everywhere. That’s just pride,” Johnson said. “We’re a small community, but we’re a tight community. And we love our own.”
Since Johnson’s memorable breakthrough in winning the Masters in 2007, he’s developed into one of the steadier players on the circuit.
Johnson has won at least one tournament in each of the past four seasons and finished third in the FedEx Cup standings in 2009. Though he suffered a dip last season by finishing 19th on the money list after being fourth in 2009, he went 2-1 in the Ryder Cup.
Johnson, who’s never been one of the game’s longest drivers off the tee, said he’s focused on continuing to hone his accuracy and short game in 2011.
“I thought my ball-striking at the end of the year was really good, and my putting really came along probably a third or halfway through the season,” Johnson said. “I’m encouraged. I like where things are.”
Johnson no longer lives in the state, but his charity golf event in Cedar Rapids in 2008 raised roughly $350,000 for victims of that spring’s heavy floods. Last summer, he announced the launch of the Zach Johnson Foundation for needy children in Cedar Rapids.
The foundation’s signature event will be an annual golf event in Cedar Rapids featuring a handful of PGA players and up-and-coming golfers. The inaugural event will be held on Aug. 1.
“I love coming home,” Johnson said. “This always has been and always will be home.”