OLIVIA, Minn. (WCCO) — When John Johnston started coaching boys golf at Olivia High School, Lyndon B. Johnson was President. After 50 years, he just retired this week as the head coach of BOLD High School.
“Not in any stretch of my imagination did I think I’d be doing this for that long,” Johnston said.
Five decades is a long time to be in any job, which just goes to show how much Johnston loved teaching kids the game of golf. He pretty much had to though, considering he was paid just $100 when he started in 1963.
“For that $100, I had to supply a car to take them to meets,” Johnston said. “But they did pay the gasoline.”
A lot has changed since then. Golf clubs and golf balls have gotten better, and the state tournament has gone from one class to three.
After a brutal spring for weather, the high school careers of coach Johnston and senior Cole Mertens ended on a high note as Mertens qualified for the Class A tournament at Pebble Creek in Becker, Minn.
“The first state tournament I was at was in 1964 — one man ran the entire tournament by himself,” Johnston said.
Johnston’s wife is also retiring after 25 years of coaching BOLD’s girls golf team. The plan after retiring from coaching golf is … to simply play more golf.
And that will happen mostly in Arizona.
Johnston’s absence will definitely be felt on the team, and across the district.
“Oh, he’s the best coach you could ask for — he shows up for us at other sporting events,” golfer Nick Feige said. “Just a good mentor; just kind of like a fatherly figure.”
Golfer Jayson Rothmeier he’ll definitely be missed.
“It’ll be hard the next couple years to get back to another coach,” Rothmeier said.
But before he tees off into the sunset, Johnston leaves behind a lesson learned over the past 50 years.
“Stay calm — there’s always tomorrow, as Bud Grant would always say,” Johnston said. “If you don’t win right away, there’s another tournament next year.”
Johnston also taught at BOLD, and coached basketball and football for a while, but golf was his first love.
Four of the players he taught over his high school career went on to be PGA teaching pros.