After small beginnings, golfer Julia Johnson’s game towers above the opposition _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Golfer Julia Johnson putts a potential birdie putt on the 3rd green during the AJGA tournament at The Bluffs golf course.

Julia Johnson acknowledges that at 5-foot-4 she doesn’t tower over people.

But the junior who competes for East Iberville remembers a time when she was intimidated by the size of other golfers.

“I played in my first state high school golf tournament when I was in third grade,” Johnson said. “I do remember looking around and seeing how much taller the other girls were. Now I guess you can say I’ve come full circle.”

Johnson enters the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Golf championships as the heavy favorite to win the Division II title for the fourth straight year. Tee times for the two-day tourney begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Les Vieux Chenes in Lafayette.

It all started when Johnson was an elementary school student attending Pine Prairie, a kindergarten through 12th grade school, located in Evangeline Parish. The family soon moved to the Baton Rouge area.

As Johnson has grown, so has her game. Last year, she won her third straight title by eight strokes. She shot a girls course record of 64 at last week’s regional tourney at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Zachary. That day she carded 10 birdies.

“I changed my swing last year, and now I feel comfortable with every club I use,” Johnson said. “I’m happy with my game right now, but I’m not satisfied.

“I’m also very competitive. Once a tournament or a round starts, I’m out there working to play the best I can.”

Johnson’s primary focus is on junior golf tournaments. The 17-year-old has played in about 200 since entering her first tournament as a six-year-old. Johnson has qualified for the USGA’s Four-Ball Championship scheduled later this month.

When asked about the significance of the LHSAA tourney, Johnson has a prompt response.

“This one is for my family … my parents and my grand parents,” Johnson said. “This is a tournament they can come see me play. They all grew up playing high school sports, so this means a lot to them.

“Some pressure comes with that. Now that I’m older I feel like I can focus on being relaxed and playing the best I can.”