CARLSBAD — With the KIA Classic returning to the La Costa Resort and Spa in just a couple of weeks, golfer Jennifer Johnson will have one of the shortest and one of the more pretty commutes when she begins her work week during the tournament.Johnson, 20, has grown up in Carlsbad, where the sprawling greens and fairways of the course literally make up her backyard. It was also where her father introduced her to the game and where she learned to play when she was 9-years-old.Coming to play here is something that’s really special to her, she said. “Learning how to play golf here and then playing on this course as a professional, playing in front of friends and family it would just mean a lot, a real solid week here.”The KIA Classic is marking its return to La Costa since 2010, following renovations throughout the course and a redesigning of holes 1, 9, 10 and 18.The LPGA tour season began earlier this year, with tournaments in Australia and Thailand. Johnson competed in each tournament, finishing tied for 31st and 33rd respectively.Having turned professional in 2010 after attending Arizona State University for a year, Johnson has already begun making assessments of her game since her rookie season in 2011, and said she is happy with the way her current season is progressing.
“I’m feeling pretty good about my game and I just want to get as many top-5s, maybe a win. Really, I want to focus on getting Solheim Cup points because I love match play and I love playing for my country.”
As an amateur Johnson represented the U.S. in the 2008 junior Ryder Cup and the 2009 junior Solheim Cup.
She has an interesting slant on setting goals for herself, saying: “You can’t really get wrapped up in your goals because it may prevent you from doing as good as you can.”
Becoming a professional is something she’s taken to very well, too. She’s getting used to media attention and once the season starts, it’s a lot of travel and a lot of golf, she explained. Her dad is able to travel with her, which makes it easier, and life on tour gives them the ability to go to a lot of places they normally wouldn’t get to go, she added.
She’ll next be playing in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup before returning home to play the KIA Classic, where she hopes the crowds will be large. Playing between the ropes during tournaments, Johnson said she hears some funny comments.
When she knows a putt isn’t going to fall, and she hears someone from the gallery say, “How did that stay out?” she has to question herself as to what that person was looking at sometimes.
But having someone cheer for you is exciting, Johnson said. “It makes you want to hit more shots and keep playing good.”
Johnson also continues to work with the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization she was introduced to through Navistar, one of her sponsors.
“I learned how great an organization (Wounded Warrior Project) it is and we wouldn’t be here without the men and women that have sacrificed their lives and put themselves in danger, so I just think it’s important to give back.”
Johnson donates a portion of her earnings on tour to helping the organization.
Over the offseason, which she said “flies by,” Johnson spends it practicing and working on her game; watching Chargers games and being disappointed by the seasons they’ve had.
“I don’t know how you can be happy after the last couple of seasons,” she said, adding, “You kind of want to blame it on somebody, but who knows? Maybe it’ll click next year.”
The KIA Classic begins March 19 through March 25. More information is available at kiaclassic.com.