March 23, 2022 - by

W. Golf’s Elle Johnson: Homeward Bound

SUNSET, S.C. (seminoles.com) – It is not often that a Division I student-athlete gets to go home during the season.  It is probably less often that a Division I student-athlete gets to celebrate their birthday with both her teammates and her family during the season. 

For Florida State junior golfer Elle Johnson, the stars have aligned, and the dates have matched up.

Johnson will play as a member of the Seminoles’ lineup at the Sixth Annual Clemson Invitational, which begins Friday at The Reserve at Lake Keowee.   The course is located just over an hour from her hometown of Inman, S.C.  On Saturday, she will celebrate her 21st birthday.

“I’m super excited to see my family that I haven’t seen in a while,” said Johnson, who finished in a career-best tied for 18th place at last week’s Valspar Augusta Invitational.   “To get to celebrate my birthday with them is an added bonus.”

No. 14 Florida State is the second-highest ranked squad in the 18-team tournament that will be played over three days (18 holes each day) with the tee times beginning at 9:00 am (8:30 am on Sunday) off of holes No. 1 and No. 10 each day.  The Seminoles are joined in the event by No. 6 Florida, No. 17 LSU, No. 22 Virginia Tech, No. 26 Kentucky, No. 28 Illinois, No. 34 Clemson, No. 36 Michigan State, No. 42 Miami, No. 43 Purdue, No. 44 Kent State, No. 48 Furman, Kansas, Maryland, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and UNC Wilmington as they face 12 of the nation’s top-50 teams in the power-packed event. 

For Johnson, her return home comes at a very opportune time in her development.  The Biological Sciences major with a near-perfect 3.86 grade point average for her entire academic career at Florida State enters the Clemson Invitational with a career-best 74.50 stroke average in three events.  She has carded five of her eight rounds at 75 or better and has earned her way into the Seminoles’ lineup in each of their four events this spring. 

“I feel like all the work I have put in to my ball striking is coming together,” said Johnson.  “I feel that striking the ball better has created more consistency, and my off season tournaments were a good jump start.” 

Johnson’s spring semester actually began during the winter break as she finished in fifth place at the Orlando International Amateur Championship and in a tie for sixth place at the Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational.  She shot a 69 in the final round of the Orlando International and closed the event with scores 71-69 (140) over the final 36 holes to finish with an even par score of 216.  She finished the Citrus Golf Trail Invitational only five strokes out of first place and was even par (144) over the course of the final 36 holes. 

“My performances over the break really showed me that I can compete,” said Johnson.  “I proved to myself that I can put together many high quality rounds in order to help my team this spring.”

Johnson earned a 2-1 record in match play as a member of the Seminoles’ lineup as the combined men’s and women’s team won the championship at the Inaugural Barbara Nicklaus Cup.  In three events this spring, she has counted 7.5 of her eight individual scores towards the team score as Florida State has earned three top three team finishes, including the team championship at the season-opening Moon Invitational. 

Head Coach Amy Bond, who led Florida State to the team championship at the Clemson Invitational 2017, knows how hard Johnson has worked to earn a spot in Florida State’s lineup. 

“I am so happy for Elle because I know the things she has done to put herself in this position,” said Bond.  “She has illustrated to the entire coaching staff that she is serious about becoming a good golfer, one that can help us win championships at Florida State.”

Johnson is certainly able to point to one change in her overall game.

“I definitely do have more confidence and still push myself to be better every day,” said Johnson. 

Johnson has always been a confident person, and traces her success back to her junior and high school career. 

She graduated from Spartanburg (S.C.) High School in 2019 after earning two top-five state championship finishes as a junior and a senior.  She was the individual state champion, the regional champion, and finished as the Upstate runner-up in South Carolina as a junior in 2017.  Johnson was named as the Upstate Golfer of the Year by the Spartanburg Herald Journal in 2017 after winning the 5A State Championship.  She also played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the first time in her career in 2019. 

Johnson has learned that a position in the Seminoles’ lineup is not a given to her or any of her teammates.  She played in the Seminoles’ lineup just twice during her freshman and sophomore seasons. 

“I have learned that nothing is guaranteed,” said Johnson.  “We have to work hard every week to make the lineup because everyone on this team pushes each other constantly. It is definitely tough sitting at home.  I’ve learned that I have an opportunity to get better and earn a spot or stay comfortable.”

 Johnson’s teammates enjoying playing with the two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection. 

“Elle has been working hard on her game and her hard work is paying off,” said All-American Beatrice Wallin.  “She is always fun to be around on the road and off. She has a great team spirit and brings a lot of laughter to the group. We are all lucky to have her as a teammate.”

Despite growing up down the road from The Reserve at Lake Keowee, she has never played the course.  She has some familiarity because she has caddied for friends and watched the Seminoles play in the event while she was in high school. 

Johnson, who comes from a big family, is expecting a large gallery to follow her over the three-day tournament. 

“Being that we only live an hour from Clemson, there is a lot of orange in my family,” said Johnson.  “But my family will always rep the garnet and gold for women’s golf.”

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