By Kyle Daubs

It’s not how one starts that’s important, they say, but how one finishes.

That was true for Mattoon High School senior Meade Johnson in last week’s IHSA regional boys golf tournament. 

Johnson began the postseason with a triple-bogey on the first hole and then bogeyed the next hole. Needless to say, it was not the start for the eventual 2020 Class 2A individual champion. 

“I’m still a little dumbfounded,” said Johnson. “I started so poorly. You always try to compete after a bad first hole.”

That’s exactly what he did. After a par on No. 3, Johnson shot an eagle on the 477-yard par-5 to put him back on track. 

“I just told myself , ‘It’s your last regional’ and there were some easy holes after one,” said Johnson. “There were some par-5s that I told myself I could do some damage. Coach talked me down and then I made eagle on a par-5. I just thought this is a good time to turn it around.”

Mattoon coach Bill Behrends faced similar struggles when he himself was a high school golfer.

“On the third hole, he (Behrends) brought up what happened to him his senior year,” said Johnson. “He talked about how he was supposed to win his own postseason. He started off horrible and then came back and shot a good score. He wanted me to do that, too.”

After finishing the round with 10 pars, including a back nine best 1-over 37, Johnson became the first MHS golfer since 2017 to win the Regional. 

“I just wanted to play and get the team a good score,” said Johnson. “Next thing you know, I looked up on the 16th and I was just one shot back. The next hole was a par-5. I thought, ‘Let’s birdie this hole and see if he bogeys.’ Then he bogeyed 16 and 17, and I shot par the rest of the way out.”

Johnson’s dad, Lake Land women’s basketball coach Dave Johnson, spends plenty of time on the golf course as well. His older brother, Davis, was a former All-Apollo golfer as well, so winning the whole regional was a special moment for the family. 

“That was a pretty proud father-son moment,” said Johnson. “He gave me a nice handshake and a hug. I’ve been playing golf since I was 10. It was just a wow moment, realizing that all the hard work paid off. It was a special moment and sort of a sigh of relief.”

The senior bounced back from finishing sixth at the Apollo Conference tournament a week before, which included losing to teammates Stewart Druin and Colton Romine. This time around, Johnson’s score of 5-over-par 77 bested both teammates by five and six strokes respectively. 

“We have three or four kids on this team that can win every tournament we play,” said Johnson. “After all this time, you just know who you are competing against. Colton and I have competed since our freshman year. We are all pretty fond of each other and we give each other a run for your money every time.”

As the Green Wave enters today’s sectional, the team knows that this is likely the last event of the golf season. However, Johnson is hopeful that the team can make another run at bringing home another award to hang in the school. 

“We’re going to hope,” said Johnson. “The competition in the sectional is going to be tough. Benton won its Regional and they appear to be a good team. We have the ability to shoot low and we are going to try and do just that.”