Johnson turns the clock back with playoff birdie

Berkhamsted Trophy 2014

What a difference a year makes. That was something England ‘A’ squad member Luke Johnson reflected upon after he won the Berkhamsted Trophy with a birdie in a three-way playoff.

A year ago, the 21 year old from King’s Lynn was disappointed to be eliminated at the first extra hole of a similar playoff against Gary Oliver from Essex and eventual winner Jack Singh Brar.

This time the result hinged on another three-way affair after Johnson and Woburn’s John Kemp tied on 140, two under par, alongside James Reeson, the current Cambridgeshire champion.

Kemp, the English Mid Amateur champion and the most experienced of the trio, went out at the opening playoff hole, the first, after three-putting from the back fringe.

Then at the short second, 20-year-old Reeson’s birdie putt clipped the hole as he had at the first, but Johnson rolled in his 15-footer to win his first title in almost two years and get his game back on track.

“This has been a long time coming and is a nice way to start the season,” he said. “I’ve been struggling with my game for the last couple of weeks and I’ve been working with my psychologist to sort things out.

“I just stuck to my pre-shot routine today to take the pressure off so winning is a good feeling especially after last year.”

After shooting a level-par 71 in the morning, Johnson found himself three strokes off the lead shared by Reeson, Jack Haines from Gerrards Cross, Northwood’s Justin Phelps. But as the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped few bettered the tough par.

However, Reeson set the target with 72 for 140 to be caught by Kemp with 71, while Johnson, playing in the last group, birdied the 14th and 16th for a 69 to join them.

Kemp might have taken the title in normal time as he had an eagle chance on the long 16th. But he could only secure a par which proved crucial at the end of the day, while Reeson took the defeat on the chin. “I didn’t lose it, Luke won it with his birdie,” he said.

“I’m glad I put in that strong finish,” added Johnson. “I saw the scores after nine holes of the afternoon and knew John was doing well. He is such a good golfer that I knew if I could beat him I’d be in with a shout.

“This is the fourth time I’ve played the Berkhamsted and it’s such a prestigious event that I’m thrilled to win it.”

Perhaps Johnson’s victory coming on the short second hole was pre-ordained. In his practice round he holed his tee shot there with an eight iron. With conditions somewhat colder and windier in the playoff, he trusted his five iron in the playoff.

Leading final scores:

140 L Johnson (King’s Lynn) 71 69, J Kemp (Woburn) 69 71, J Reeson (Brampton Park) 68 72 (Johnson won at 2nd playoff hole)

142 G Munro (The Bedfordshire) 71 71, D Corben (Hindhead) 70 72, J Singh Brar (Remedy Oak) 70 72, J Phelps (Northwood) 68 74

143 T Robson (Weymouth) 72 71, C Long (Whittington Heath) 70 73, D Blick (East Devon) 70 73