Niagara Gazette

Sports

July 26, 2013

Porter Cup Notebook: Auburn's Johnson gets first taste

Niagara Gazette —

LEWISTON — When Michael Johnson tapped in for par from the green of the Niagara Falls Country Club’s 18th hole Thursday, he embraced each player in his group with a firm handshake and a friendly pat on the shoulder.

He then walked to the scorer’s tent to submit his spoils from the day before meeting his parents, who arrived in town earlier this week from their home in Birmingham, Ala., to support their son.

Johnson, a 20-year-old junior at Auburn University, is surrounded by familiar faces as he plays in his first Porter Cup this year, the 55th running of the prestigious tournament.

Johnson was one of the biggest climbers during Day Two, which featured pristine weather conditions with temperatures in the low 70s around the sun-kissed fairways at NFCC.

After shooting a first-round 71 on Wednesday, Johnson teed off at 9:20 a.m. tied for 24th. By the time he walked off No. 18 about four hours later, his round of 66 helped him climb 15 spots into a tie for ninth place 3 strokes under par entering the third round.

Johnson, rated No. 41 in the Scratch Player World Amateur Rankings, is one of the 44 players in the field of 84 playing at NFCC for the first time. He set a tournament record while winning the Dogwood Invitational this year, shooting a 28-under 260 over four rounds.

Playing his first two rounds alongside a pair of friends, last year’s champion Richy Werenski and runner-up Denny McCarthy, has helped Johnson settle in here.

“It’s nice to have friends out here,” Johnson said of Werenski and McCarthy. “Especially ones who have done well here. … They point out some of the little things you normally wouldn’t see but make all the difference.”

The trio compete in about 15 tournaments together each year. The close proximity of their schools -- Werenski attends Georgia Tech and McCarthy plays at Virginia -- has encouraged the friendship.

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