Junior Am brings back memories of Bradley

Published 12:13 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thousands of golfers, parents, volunteers and spectators will walk the beautiful fairways and greens of Shoal Creek this week. As 156 young golfers make their attempt to play in Saturday’s final, it can’t help but stir up memories of Alabama’s greatest golf performance in a U.S. Junior Amateur.

In 2005, Spain Park golfer Bradley Johnson warmed the hearts of the Longmeadow (Mass.) Club as he finished runner-up.

“It was magical,” Bradley’s mother Shari said.

Shari was frustrated during the final rounds that she couldn’t push her way through the large crowd to see her son play. But once she realized that the crowd was pulling for her son, she enjoyed hearing that more than seeing the action.

Bradley’s week at Longmeadow commanded respect, because that’s what he gave first to every volunteer and player. The friendship quickly gained in that one week led to a rare moment at Longmeadow after Bradley lost his life the following March in a car accident.

The club placed a memorial plaque on the 10th hole, the site where Bradley birdied a Par 5 with a penalty stroke in the final round — a performance that created a buzz through the gallery.

Shari and her husband Hugh return to the U.S. Junior Amateur this week at Shoal Creek to see the life-long friends they made that one week in Massachusetts.

The week is a tough one for the Johnsons as they visit with friends and share stories of Bradley. He surely would be at Shoal Creek this week also, helping his coach scout future talent. Monday, he would have sat on the No. 1 teebox with his brother Michael, 15, as he waited for the chance to slip into the field as an alternate.

Michael’s played a Junior Am course before — receiving a private round at Longmeadow at age 12. Now he waits to play in one that counts.

This year’s first attempt was one stroke short in qualifying, but his day will come.

While the Johnsons would like Bradley by their side this week, they are also proud of what his death has helped them do. Through the Bradley Johnson Memorial Foundation, they have raised thousands of dollars to give juniors a chance to chase their dreams of playing junior golf — a small token that may one day lead another 15-year-old to the Junior Am.