MISSOULA – Ryggs Johnston is transitioning from teenage phenom to the best golfer in the state, all while still attending Libby High School. The KPAX Athlete of the Week put together outstanding rounds on his way to a historic title and a rare near-miss.
Johnston has more state junior and high school titles than he can fit in a trophy case. But the 18-year-old had never before taken his best shot at perhaps the biggest tournament in Montana, the State Am. Johnston sat in second place after one round at the Butte Country Club. But as he has done so many times, he torched the course for a 62 on Friday, turning an always-competitive event into an eight-shot runaway.
“That was a fun tournament,” said Johnston a few days after the claiming the trophy. “It was really cool to win my first State Am that I’ve ever competed in. It’s obviously the goal to win every tournament, but yeah, I’m glad I got to play in it finally and win one.”
Just two days later, Johnston teed it up at a U.S. Amateur qualifier at the Ranch Club in Missoula. He led a stacked field through almost the entire two rounds, but Canada’s Patrick Murphy caught him at the end and won on the third playoff hole.
Johnston missed a couple birdie putts that would have earned him a spot in the big tournament; providing more direction for the perfectionist’s next practices.
“I think I need to work on some putting now,” saidJohnston. “Putting was a little rough this tournament. But just trying to keep a well-balanced game, I think that’s what has made me so consistent over the years.”
Johnston has had no trouble adjusting to the longer courses and tougher competition in men’s tournaments. In fact, he has loved the change from the junior game.
“I really like playing men’s tournaments,” said Johnston. “It’s kind of a little more laidback. There is some cool, fun people that I’ve got to meet over the years.”
But the senior still has one more title to win as a Libby Logger before becoming an Arizona State Sun Devil next fall.
“Try to win my fourth state championship,” he said. “That’s the next goal. And then we’ll just take it from there.”
Johnston doesn’t just have a great swing. He also has a deadly jump shot. He led the Northwest A conference, scoring more than 23 points per game on the basketball court last season.