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Johnson to the ninth

Justin Marville

Johnson to the ninth

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Not as if there’s anything startling about James Johnson winning the Barbados Open.
Barbados’ premier golfer took the country’s premier event again, hitting a stunning four-under 68 on yesterday’s final round to secure the United Insurance-sponsored championships for an unprecedented ninth time at Royal Westmoreland.
If this was a script, Johnson proved to be more than the star, having first directed this plot since 1997 and as recent as last year.
And just like the 2009 championships, the local 30-year-old (148) had to conquer a final day deficit after trailing Mitchum Jasper (146) by two strokes on the heels of two ordinary rounds.
But Johnson’s renowned Sunday charge must look ordinary by now too.
What wasn’t mundane was the start he had to the front nine, hitting par on the first four holes before improving with birdies on the fifth, sixth and seventh to put the Trini in his rear view mirror.
“Playing under pressure tends to bring the best out of you,” said Johnson, who also won the Caribbean Championships earlierthis year.
“I was really scrapping around a bit after two fairly poor scores but then I just got a bit of momentum, and that’s how sports is.”
Shane Costelloe, Jasper’s countryman who started the day tied with Johnson, wasn’t so easily shaken while going toe-to-toe with the Caribbean king along the front nine.
He too fell once Johnson parred the tenth prior to hitting birdies on 12 and 14 to go four strokes up and end the tournament on an even par 216.
“I have an inner confidence,” Johnson affirmed.
“I do believe in my own ability and I believe that I should beat everyone, but I know how sports is and you can’t take anyone for granted.”
Costelloe finished second with a two-over 74 for a 222 total while another Trinidadian, Dave Rajkumar was third with 223 after shooting 72.
Jasper eventually ended up in sixth (226), having put himself out of contention early on by hitting a ball out of bounds on the fourth and double-bogeying the seventh.
But while Johnson was putting the finishing touches on his legacy at the Open, another Barbadian was just starting to carve out hers.
At just 15 years-old, Serena Smith secured her first ever women’s championships, but not without scare, after surrendering all but three-strokes of a ten-shot lead on the final day.
Having scored a one-over 73 on Saturday, Smith hit 42 on both the front and back nine nines, barely avoiding a strong charge from Trinidad’s Lynn De Cambra McLeod (77).
“It was pretty hard [because] I didn’t start off as great as I did yesterday [Saturday],” said Smith of her day’s performance.
“Things weren’t clicking for me today [yesterday]. There was a lot of pressure because obviously I should have won but if I didn’t win that would’ve been pretty bad considering my lead.”
The seniors went down to the wire, with first day leader Kendrick Haynes (76) making up a one-stroke deficit to beat former Caribbean champ Robert Piggott (78) by just one shot.
Piggott actually extended his initial advantage to three-strokes after hitting 38 on the front nine, but faltered along the back after going four over par for the final nine holes.
It followed a similar finish to that of the men’s first flight group, as Trinidad’s Subash Ranjitsingh (251) edged out Ian Winsborrow and Ian Chin (252) to win by a mere stroke.
This was after Trevor Tasker’s final day meltdown a 20-over par 92, which cost the local resident (257) his two-shot advantage at the start of the day.
They weren’t the only ones to have an enthralling finish either, as Trinidadian and Caribbean golf president Asraph Ali (83) narrowly held off Cally Boyea’s (76) late charge to win the super seniors by the same one-shot margin.
Boyea made up most of the eight-stroke deficit along the back nine but left the rally too late, having only shot a 36 on the front. Alberto Martinez (84) finished a further ten strokes back.