THE OPEN SERVES UP ‘BEEF’
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