WHITEFISH — The question now is whether it would be more surprising if Libby native Ryggs Johnston did not finish strong on the golf course.
He may just be a sophomore, but Johnston continues to make a name for himself in collegiate golf. Last week, he finished third in the NCAA Men's Golf Championship while helping Arizona State to the semifinals in team match play.
"I think I was just kind of looking to place, and I knew if I played solid it was going to be a strong finish," Johnston said. "It is long tournaments, and with those kinds of tournaments the best players usually come out on top, so I just tried to stay level mentally, and just the atmosphere out there was awesome. We had so much support. And then with the Golf Channel following, it was a lot of fun and to be playing that well under those circumstances was just pretty awesome."
Johnston scored the same low national championship round (63 during the tournament's second round) as golf legend Phil Mickelson and made his way on the Sun Devils' NCAA top-three finishes list. Johnston is in good company with two PGA golfers who played at ASU: Mickelson, who won the championship as a freshman, sophomore and senior, and Jon Rahm, who tied for second as a freshman and third as a senior.
"Just to be in the conversation with Phil and to be up on the same All-American board as he is -- I will get my name up there when they announce it later on this week probably -- and to have the same low national championship round as him and close to Jon Rahm, it is just really amazing, and I'm just grateful for that," said Johnston.
ASU golf coach Matt Thurmond always talks about how Ryggs is one of the best golfers in the country, but he said Libby is the one hometown on the team he hasn't visited. Johnston makes sure to use that to his advantage.
"I get to dig in with them every once in a while, like, 'Hey, when are you going to come up to Montana?' I mean, he's been to Spain and Taiwan and all these crazy places, but he hasn't quite made it up to Montana when he's from Washington," Johnston said. "So I'm hoping he'll come up either this summer, the next summer. So it should be a lot of fun. Just take them out on the river and float around in the drift boat and maybe take them on a hike or two."