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College golf: Wilsonville alumnus Travis Johnsen finishes career at Gonzaga

First-team all-league honor highlights list of accomplishments with Bulldogs


by: GONZAGA ATHLETICS - Travis Johnsen, who graduated from Wilsonville High School in 2009, recently finished his collegiate golf career at Gonzaga. Ill definitely miss it, he says.Travis Johnsen knew what he was getting into with collegiate golf.

He knew the level of competition would be a fairway-sized cut above that of the Oregon prep scene. He knew he’d have to give up some of his social life to work on his game and travel to tournaments. And he knew it would be a challenge to keep his coursework in order while playing with a Division I program.

And yet, it was all worth it.

The Wilsonville High School alumnus recently finished his career as a member of the Gonzaga men’s golf team, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a trove of accomplishments on the links.

“It was a lot of fun,” Johnsen said of his golf experience. “The biggest challenge was time management. You really had to make a sacrifice with your social life and, obviously, school, so it was all about learning how to balance the three and find a happy medium to succeed at all three.”

Johnsen had plenty of individual success on the golf course, and he played a key role on the roster during a transformative phase for the Bulldogs program under 14-year coach Robert Gray.

He broke the 70-stroke benchmark as a freshman, shooting a second-round 68 at the Kauai Collegiate Invitational in Hawaii en route to a 54-hole score of 219. He finished his inaugural campaign at Gonzaga with an average of 76.7 strokes per round.

That promising start was just the beginning of a productive career.

Johnsen started his sophomore year with a 54-hole 217 at the Palouse Cougar Collegiate tournament in Pullman, Wash., led Gonzaga with a 219 at the Brickyard Collegiate Championship in Macon, Ga., and carded a 214 to place fourth at the West Coast Conference championships. He finished just two shots behind the medalists.

Johnsen became the third player in program history to earn first-team all-league honors.

“I definitely made some pretty big strides,” said Johnsen, whose strokes-per-round average dipped to 74.6 that season. “You’ve gotta try to get better each day, week, month and year, and I felt like I did that. There will be times where you’re not pleased with your play, but you’ve gotta keep working hard to get better.”

As a junior, Johnsen paced the Bulldogs scores in four tournaments and finished the season with a 74.7 stroke average. He shot his best collegiate round, a 3-under-par 67, at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic that year in Scottsdale, Ariz., finishing the event with a team-best total of 210.

Thanks in part to Johnsen, Gonzaga wrapped up that year in fourth place at the conference championships.

His senior season didn’t pass without several milestones.

With a two-day 153, he helped the Bulldogs to a first-place finish at the Cowboy Classic — the program’s first tournament win since 2005.

“That was awesome,” he said. “It’s a huge event, so for us to get that first major victory in a big field like that in the second-to-last tournament (of the year) was a good way to go out.”

Johnsen’s final-year stroke average ended up at 75.9, the second-worst mark of his career, but it was still a memorable season. Gonzaga made school history by placing third at the league championships this year.

“I played all four years, and it was nice because the team improved all four years,” he said.

Of course, Johnsen began playing golf many years before he arrived in Spokane, Wash.

Johnsen’s paternal grandfather, who won amateur tournaments at Buffalo Hill Golf Club in Kalispell, Mont., passed his love for the game down to Johnsen’s father, Mack, a local dentist.

“My dad and grandpa started me when I was 8 or 9, just chipping in the backyard, and I was doing full rounds when I was 9 or 10,” said Johnsen, who was putting in the living room a few years before that. “Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing at the time.”

Johnsen was focused on other sports in middle school, playing basketball and soccer and running track. But he realized he was “decent” at golf when he started to beat his brother, Brandon, who is about 4 years older.

By the end of Johnsen’s high school career at Wilsonville, his name was likely familiar among prep golfers in the region.

He was a three-time all-state selection, placing in the top 10 at the Class 5A championships three times. He tied for eighth as a sophomore, took fifth as a junior and snagged third as a senior, leading the Wildcats to top-five team finishes each time, including runner-up honors in 2008 and 2009.

“We were pretty dominant in our league, so that was cool,” Johnsen said. “And we were always in it at state. That was pretty fun, too.”

Mack and his wife, Tamra Busch-Johnsen, were often on hand for their son’s high school tournaments. They continued that tradition during his collegiate career at Gonzaga.

“You can count on one hand the tournaments they missed,” Johnsen said. “It was nice to have them along on the trips.”

All of the travel could have been a potential concern for Johnsen, who has Type I diabetes, but he grew accustomed to dealing with the condition. He said he simply had to add a few extra items to his packing checklist and be diligent about his health.

“I really never ran into any major issues,” he said. “You’ve gotta be extra careful, especially in some of the hotter tournaments, and you’ve gotta be more aware, but I never really ran into too many issues. It went into the time management thing — when you’re supposed to eat, what to eat and that kind of thing. I don’t think it’s a tough thing to deal with — you’ve just gotta make the extra effort to think about it.”

Currently, Johnsen is looking for work and hoping to land a job in either the healthcare or sports realm.

He still plays golf occasionally, but he knows it’s not quite like competing on a Division I roster at Gonzaga.

“I’ll definitely miss it,” he said.




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