Liam Johnston is hoping to achieve his goals as one of Scotland’s four new European Tour card holders for the 2019 campaign, which starts this week, with some input from the Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers.
Johnston, a fan of the Parkhead club, sat beside Rodgers on a flight home from Dubai during one of the international breaks in the current Scottish Premiership campaign and was left inspired by their chat at 30,000 feet. “You are a wee bit timid when faced with talking to the guy who manages your favourite team, but he was brilliant,” said the 25-year-old, who won twice on the Challenge Tour this year as he graduated to the top tour along with Grant Forrest, Bob MacIntyre and David Law.
“It was a red-eye flight. He obviously wanted to sleep, but we had a wee chat and I had a lot of questions obviously! He was really nice. It was just after Celtic had that 6-0 win (over St Johnstone) that got their season going and he was talking about what he’d said to guys about desire and will. It was interesting to hear him.”
Johnston, who hails from Dumfries, has joined Forrest, MacIntyre and Law in heading out to the Far East for the Honma Hong Kong Open, the first of 48 tournaments on the 2019 European Tour schedule. In a taste of what’s to come, the quartet are lining up in a field that includes Masters champion Patrick Reed, as well as two of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes, Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood. “It’s taken a bit of time to sink in that I’m on the European Tour,” admitted Johnston, who secured a card in his first full season in the paid ranks. “I think it will be when you play in events that you are used to watching on the TV. I’ll realise then, ‘geez, we’re on the tour now’.”
Before heading out to Hong Kong, Johnston picked up the keys for a flashy new car through a partnership with Harry Fairbairn BMW and Arnold Clark. “My car before was a 13-year-old Astra with a massive scrape down one side, had one wing mirror and the other one was duck taped on, so it’s nice to have a brand-new car,” he said, laughing.
After winning twice – the African Amateur and Scottish Stroke-Play Championships – in his final season as an amateur, Johnston landed three victories this year, his brace on the Challenge Tour coming after a success on the third-tier ProGolf Tour. “That’s big,” he said of having proven himself to be a winner. “It’s quite an emotional rollercoaster for me at events. I’m not the guy who will plod along. If I’m on my game, I’m on and I’ll do well. If I’m off it, I will miss the cut. I don’t know what you’d rather be.
“People have asked me that question. Would you rather have a lot of top 10s or a couple of wins? I’d prefer the way it is, to have wins, but that’s easy to say as that’s the way my career has panned out.
“I think consistency will be important on the tour, though, and that’s what I’ve been talking to my coach, James Erskine, about. But that’s golf. You’re always chipping away at your weaknesses and building on your strengths.”