Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Promotion -

ith all due re­spect to Hen­rik Sten­son, no­body did more to raise his pro­file dur­ing the Open Cham­pi­onship than An­drew John­ston. For four days at Royal Troon, the bushy-bearded golfer who goes by the name of “Beef ” (“only my mom and girl­friend call me An­drew”) feasted on ap­plause from the crowds as he went from ob­scure English pro to in­ter­na­tional golf celebrity.

“I have no idea,” the 27-year-old, who in April got his first Euro­pean Tour vic­tory at the Span­ish Open, said when asked why he seemed to con­nect with the gal­leries. “I guess I’m just re­ally down to earth, and at the end of the day I’m just a nor­mal guy who hap­pens to play golf. I’m no dif­fer­ent to any­one else.”

Mod­esty is among John­ston’s best at­tributes; his game is im­pres­sive for a player who just two years ago was barely scrap­ing by on the Chal­lenge Tour, hop­ing for a high fin­ish to be able to af­ford Christ­mas gifts for his fam­ily.“I just never stopped be­liev­ing I could play,” he said. Hav­ing earned a Euro­pean Tour card at the end of 2014, he had an im­me­di­ate break­through that De­cem­ber in the Al­fred

WDun­hill Cham­pi­onship at Leop­ard Creek, where he fin­ished third, nine shots be­hind win­ner Bran­den Grace, and won €103 800.

What makes John­ston most en­dear­ing is how he em­braces his quirk­i­ness. He knows the beard he be­gan grow­ing in Oc­to­ber is out of con­trol, and that his waist­line prob­a­bly needs a trim as well.A Sun­day 73 af­ter play­ing in the penul­ti­mate two­some was dis­ap­point­ing, but it still left him in eighth place in just his third ca­reer start in a ma­jor.“I gave it my best,” he said, “and that’s what I come off with, so no re­grets.” – RYAN HERRINGTON

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