Iowa's masterful son

Posted: April 10, 2007

ZACH JOHNSON IS the Masters champion you did not know 48 hours ago.

He's not Tiger. He's not Phil, or Retief or Ernie or Vijay. You know those guys. Zach? Well, he won his first major and he is the pride of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

He's down to earth, a regular guy. He might be the most famous guy from Iowa since the fictional Radar O'Reilly.

"He's like an Iowa kid.Kind of naive, very humble, and just a cool guy," said Ryan Hartman, Johnson's former teammate at Drake University in Des Moines and one of his closest friends.

Hartman was most proud of his teammate as he beat Tiger and everyone else to stunningly win the Masters. He sent Johnson a text message after the win. Yes, they have cell phones in Iowa.

"I said, 'Your life will never be the same. Great playing, and I'm still crying,' " Hartman said. "He sent me something back this morning that said, 'Luv ya. I'll buy you some Kleenex.' "

When Johnson showed up at Drake in 1994, he was a 128-pounder who couldn't drive the ball very far. He always could putt, though, and as he grew and got stronger, his game came together.

He lives in Florida. He'll always be from Iowa.

"Iowans take a lot of pride from fellow Iowans," Johnson told ESPN yesterday. "I love going back. That's where everything started . . . Going back to Iowa just feels great. I look forward to going back there with the green jacket."

It's playoff time, really it is

Remember Scott Mellanby, the former Flyer? The Thrashers winger, 40, has played 1,431 games without a Stanley Cup, the most of any active player.

Since we have no NHL playoffs around here, maybe you can get behind Mellanby. We'll even give you another reason: Atlanta opens the playoffs against the lovely Rangers. *

- Chuck Bausman

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