We caught up with David Johnson, the fan who made the putt at the Ryder Cup
Remember David Johnson, the fan at Hazeltine who playfully heckled a trio of Team Europe golfers during a practice round at the 2016 Ryder Cup, then backed up his words by sinking a 12-foot putt that the professionals couldn't?
In case you don't, here's a refresher:
We caught up with Johnson, an insurance agent based out of Mayville, North Dakota, as he re-lived the famous putt, talked about life since then and his plans to return to the Ryder Cup.
"Small town North Dakota life is pretty much back to normal," he said. "It was certainly a wild couple days afterwards and then from one of the interviews I did, I was given the opportunity to go to the Masters so that was pretty unbelievable. That was quite an experience going down there. But since then, I’ve gotten to re-live the moment a lot with conversations through people I either bump into now and again or don’t see super often so it’s certainly still a conversation piece.”
Johnson made the putt nearly two years ago so he said he's still thrown off when people recognize him on occasion from his performance on the 6th green at Hazeltine. He was at the Golf Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, two weeks ago when a fellow customer who was getting fitted for golf clubs turned around and said, "Hey, you’re the guy from Hazeltine, right?"
But that's what happens when, as Johnson puts it, “Not a lot of people have gotten the opportunity to … walk out, in essence try to make a fool out of yourself, and somehow the hole stops the ball and it kind of went from there.”
He said that while business hasn't necessarily increased since the putt, the ribbing from his customers and members of the local community certainly has. "They really love to make fun of me and enjoy the moment with me," Johnson said.
But that's nothing compared to receiving waves of interview requests from media organizations across the world.
All it took was that one putt for Johnson's plans for the Ryder Cup week to quickly change from watching golf with his cousin to becoming a media darling. Johnson estimates he was interviewed between 50 and 75 times that week, then another 15 to 20 times since then.
"It kind of went from watching golf to sitting in the media tent to do interviews and phone interviews and phone calls and Skype calls," Johnson said, laughing. "It was very hectic, from the week of golf that we had planned to the week of media that it ended up.” One interview with a London-based magazine was especially tricky, as Johnson had difficulty finding a time to talk that wasn't in the middle of the night for either party.
"The first three days was just crazy," he said. "The first day was absolutely nuts, my phone ended up dying probably an hour after it happened with the emails and the phone calls and the text messages."
Johnson said he doesn't play golf as much as he'd like, though he's able to get out once a week as he balances his time on the links with family commitments, like taking his kids to baseball practice.
The $100 bill that Justin Rose laid down on the green as an extra incentive for Johnson to make the putt was signed by Rose, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. Johnson framed it and keeps it in a safe, "so that’s certainly not going to be spent," he said, laughing.
He talked with Stenson afterwards on the driving range and had some back and forth with McIlroy. "They were all super nice guys and it was fun to converse with those guys," Johnson said, "and they seemed to have as much fun with the moment as I did."
Johnson holds out hope that Ryder Cup Europe might reach out to him with a pair of tickets for this year's Ryder Cup at Le Golf National outside of Paris. Until that happens, he has his sights set on a more realistic goal.
"We’d sure like to get back to 2020 when it’s in Wisconsin," he said.