Demopolis golfer Johnson commits to UWA

20160203 DHS Signing Day-9063

Mark Joseph Johnson (center) signs to play golf at The University of West Alabama as his mother, Jerri Ann, and father, Mark, look on.

For the first time in program history, the Demopolis High golf team will have two players signing athletic scholarships in the same academic year.

Mark Joseph Johnson has verbally committed to play at the University of West Alabama and intends to sign with the program in April. He joins female teammate Anna Reid who signed with Faulkner University in December 2015.

Johnson made the move to golf during his freshman year, walking away from baseball in pursuit of the game.

“I started off just playing because I enjoyed it. Then I started getting a little better as time went on. Then I thought to myself that I wanted to, maybe, try and play in college,” Johnson recalled. “I started really playing competitive tournaments my 11th grade year, which was a little late. Because I didn’t have experience, I didn’t really do as well in the tournaments as I’d like but (UWA golf coach Adam Buie) is going to give me a chance.”

The opportunity comes as a milestone for Johnson, who has made tremendous leaps in his game in recent years working closely under the tutelage of Demopolis golf coach Greg Rhyne.

“When I started working with him, he was all over the place. His work ethic has really been his biggest benefit. I’ve changed several parts with his golf swing and he has been very dedicated and trustworthy about making changes to his golf swing which will help him tremendously,” Rhyne said.

That work ethic has helped Johnson improve his short game as well as his mental approach to course management.

“Probably my putting and my mental game is getting stronger for sure. Once I decided I wanted to play, I went full time. I worked super hard, as hard as I’ve ever worked at anything,” Johnson, whose father attended UWA, said. “I was out on the course all the time until dark putting under the lights.”

As he enters his final season in Demopolis blue, Johnson acknowledges that he continues to have areas in which he desires to improve his golf skill.

“My main thing is definitely my mental. You can be as good as you are, but if you’re not strong up top in the head, you’re not going to be good. You’ll break down on the course. I always want to try and improve on my mental game,” Johnson said.

“He is kind of new at this game and as far as competitions are concerned, he’s really new. I’m excited about him getting this scholarship and getting the chance to play,” Rhyne added. “He has got a lot of growing to do within the game but he is willing to put in the work and he knows he has a lot of work to do. He is willing to go out there and listen to his coaches, make changes and put himself out there in competition so that his game will improve.”

While the impending scholarship signing is especially significant for Johnson, it also marks a milestone for Demopolis High golf, one that Rhyne hopes can be parlayed into attracting more athletes to the program.

“It’s big. This is the first time that Demopolis has had two golfers sign academic scholarships and athletic scholarships,” Rhyne said. “I hope it’s a start for something new for golfers here in Demopolis to let them know that there are monies out there available to them. Hopefully, we can get some more golfers to come into our program and enjoy the game of golf.”