Jennifer Johnson hears the new title preceding her name. When she does, it always produces a smile.
Coach Jennifer Johnson?
“This is definitely a transition,” said Johnson, an assistant with the Cal State University San Marcos golf teams. “It used to be you just had your own game in your head and now you have 18 others. But it feels pretty natural and it’s going good.”
Johnson had a good thing going on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. She earned more than $1.2 million in prize money over a six-year stint that took her around the world.
The Carlsbad resident has a LPGA tournament win on her resume and six top-10 finishes. Those marks came after a celebrated amateur career.
But Johnson exited the LPGA grind in 2016, chased there by migraine headaches and an eagerness to see what else life offered.
“I went home and just kind of chilled a little,” she said.
Then her competitive fire was ignited when learning of an opening at the San Marcos campus. Coach Greg Hutton was seeking help and how many LPGA veterans thrust their hand into the sky?
“You never know what life has in store for you,” Johnson said. “And I do love golf.”
That affection goes both ways. Jaime Jacob, the Cougars’ top woman player, is all in with Johnson.
“Coach Jen is an amazing addition,” said Jacob, a recent medalist in the Cougars’ season-opening event in which they won.” She wants to win and knows how to do it.”
Johnson can relate, sharing her players’ predicaments with this unpredictable game that can test the stoutest of souls. There’s more to golf than bringing a club back and Johnson is front-and-center about its challenges.
“I’ve been in their shoes on the course,” Johnson said. “You can be playing well and then have a bad stretch of holes.”
The key — and most difficult part — is remaining upbeat, Johnson said.
“You can turn back a round real quick and that’s what I tell them,” she said. “I try to keep it lighthearted and tell them not to get down on themselves.”
The CSUSM squads put the beat-down on rivals to begin the season with wins. The men were triumphant as they won the CSUSM Fujikura Invitational.
“This is just a super-talented group,” Johnson said of the Cougars’ golfers. “I’m just trying to help them a little with their preparation and mapping out the courses. It’s the little details which can mean so much.”
Fact is Johnson’s old LPGA crew arrives in Carlsbad next month. The KIA Classic will be held at Aviara Golf Club, March 19 through March 25, and Johnson’s buddies are already checking in.
“I’ll get a chance to catch up with them that week,” Johnson said.
While, of course, monitoring her current charges.
“Our women players will be marshals on the 18th hole for (the final round),” Johnson said.
Sorry that’s coach Johnson.
“I’ve already learned a lot from her,” Jacob said. “And I continue to take notes.”
Johnson, 26, might continue her pro career. Until then, she’s playing through in another manner.
“Right now the goal is getting to the nationals,” she said.
Spoken like a true coach.
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports