Dustin Johnson is simply one of the best golfers in the world. The 34-year old currently ranks No. 1 in the world, has 20 PGA victories (including one this year at WGC Mexico), a 2016 U.S. Open title and four other top-5 finishes at major championships.
Since turning pro in 2007, the Columbia (S.C.) native has raked in over $60 million in prize money. Before his professional accolades, he made his mark for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
By his senior season in Charleston, he was a first team All-American by GCAA/PING and GolfWeek, as well as a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award (given to the best collegiate golfer). Per his Coastal Carolina bio, he also set several school records.
Coastal Carolina Career Scoring Leader (72.11)
-Coastal Carolina Season Scoring Leader (70.40) – owns three of CCU’s top four season averages
-Coastal Carolina Record-Holder for Best 36 Holes (133 at 2005-06 Seminole Intercollegiate)
-Coastal Carolina Record-Holder for Best 54 Holes (198, winning the 2005 NCAA East Regional)
From 2003-07, Johnson took home six individual event titles, including:
- 2005 NCAA East Regional Championship
- 2005 Duke Golf Classic
- 2005 Landfall Tradition
- 2006 Coca-Cola Duke Golf Classic
- 2007 Administaff Augusta State Invitational
- 2007 Big South Conference Championship
He finished in a tie for 9th place at the 2007 NCAA Championships won by Jamie Lovemark of Southern Cal.
Dustin Johnson High School Struggles
Johnson grew up around golf, as his father Scott was the head pro at Mid Carolina Club near Columbia in the early 1990s. While Johnson was a successful junior player, his parents’ divorce led to off-course distractions (per Myrtle Beach Online in 2016).
By high school his parents were divorced and Johnson lived with his father and transferred to Dutch Fork High.
It was there that Johnson befriended an older group, and their influence led to poor youthful decisions. He’d often either play golf or take a boat or jet ski out on Lake Murray rather than attend school his sophomore and junior years.
This all changed in the aftermath of an incident that led to Johnson’s arrest. His group of friends, led by Steven Gillian, stole items from a house for Johnson to sell to a pawn store owner. One of the items Gillian stole was a gun, which he used to kill a friend at a party. Johnson’s involvement was investigated, though he never stole anything. He eventually paid reparations for the items and has been pardoned.
“Who knows what’s going to happen when you’re that young. No one knows,” Johnson said. “Growing up, people would ask me what I was going to do and I’d tell them I’m going to play on the PGA Tour. They probably all thought I was full of (junk). That’s what I believed I was going to do.”
He emerged from the situation with a new lease on life, winning the 2002 Class AAAA state golf championship by 27 strokes. He has since earned the nickname “Hickory Nut” by PGA pro Jimmy Koosa, which refers to Johnson’s toughness.
“The first year Dustin played in the Masters, he was walking down the fairway in a practice round, and I hollered, ‘Hey, Hickory Nut,’ ” PGA pro Jimmy Koosa said to The State after Johnson’s 2016 U.S. Open win. “He did a double-take, came over and gave me a big hug.”
“I’m telling you: he’s tough. This is just the start.”