JOHNSTOWN – John Carlisle finds himself in some rare company.
For the second consecutive year, the Johnstown senior has qualified for the IMG World Junior International Golf Championship (formerly the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship) at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. He’ll again play the South Course, with more than 40 states and 55 countries represented in the Junior Olympics of golf, which begins with a practice round Saturday.
“We were told that to make it back-to-back is very rare,” said Chris Carlisle, his father and Johnstown’s golf coach. “Sometimes, kids will qualify in a younger age group, then make it back when they’re older, but seldom in the same age group.”
John Carlisle also qualified for the Optimist International Tournament, to be played July 26-31 at PGA West in West Palm Beach, Florida, site of the Honda Classic. He’ll play “The Bear Trap” finishing holes on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course and also play a round on the Arnold Palmer-designed course.
To qualify for Torrey Pines, Carlisle shot 73 at NCR Country Club in Dayton, then parred the first playoff hole to advance along with a Cincinnati St. Xavier golfer. Cincinnati Moeller’s Jake Fox, a Division I recruit, bogeyed the hole and didn’t make it.
“It was rainy, windy and cold, probably didn’t get above 55 the whole time,” Chris Carlisle said. “I’m always amazed at the number of golfers that come from big town schools, and here’s little old Johnstown with 243 boys. Moeller and St. Xavier have over 1,200.”
Just like last year, John Carlisle got off to a slow start only to finish strong. This year, he double-bogeyed No. 18 to force the playoff, but was able to par No. 1.
“I was very happy to get it over on No. 1, and not have to go to 18,” he said.
Last year, he shot 80-81-83 at Torrey Pines and didn’t make the final cut. However, he was battling an elbow injury suffered in the Ohio Junior Amateur, which bothered him even later in the Division II State Tournament. A recent lower back injury turned out to be his hip out of place, but that has been taken care of, too.
“I have a good idea of my game plan, the entire setup,” John Carlisle said. “I’m not preparing any differently, playing 18 holes, hitting the range. But at least I know the course and what to expect. I really want to make the cut.”
He’ll be able to play practice rounds Saturday and Sunday. The Parade of Nations also is Sunday, followed by another practice round Monday.
“My putting has been really good of late, so that’s a good sign,” John Carlisle said. “Playing basketball has really helped as well, playing in front of big crowds. I love it.”
The tournament could go a long way toward him landing a Division I scholarship.
“Last year, there were 511 college coaches there for boys and girls, including every coach from the top 10 programs,” he said.
To qualify for the Optimist International, he shot 75 at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton to place fifth. He scored his first-ever hole-in-one during a practice round.
“It was not my best golf,” he said. “I should have been at even par, but I tried to be a little too aggressive. I learned a lot about how to finish, and that should help me at Torrey Pines.”
He’s excited about playing at PGA West in Florida.
“I know Tiger (Woods) shot a 62 there in the final round (of the Honda Classic),” he said. “I’ve never played the course, but have read all about it and hopefully, I can make the cut there too.”
All of that should go a long way toward his senior year at Johnstown, where the Johnnies will defend their Licking County League title and hope to return to the state. They finished seventh in 2014.
“I get to play with Dalton Hastings again, and we have some good role players coming up,” John Carlisle said. “We have a chance to win the conference four years in a row, and that would be pretty incredible.”