By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Ryan Johnson had the best showing among Redwood Empire golfers in Monday’s Tournament of Champions, but the St. Helena sophomore missed by a stroke of advancing to the NCS NorCal Championships.
Johnson shot a two-under-par 69 at Peacock Gap in San Rafael. The fourth and final individual qualifier, Josh McCarthy of De La Salle, moved on with a 68.
The Empire was represented by three individuals and NBL champions Montgomery.
The Vikings, led by Luke McLaughlin’s 72, finished with a score of 393. The three teams that advanced — Foothill, Campolindo and Dublin — had identical scores of 359.
Casa Grande’s Ryan Garfield (77) and Cardinal Newman’s Eric Bolander (79) were the other Sonoma County golfers in the TOC.
Johnson’s round got off to a rocky start as he triple-bogeyed his first hole and was five-over par after three.
The he eagled No. 4 and kept the momentum going from there.
“I was seven-under-through my last 15 holes,” he said. “I’m proud of the way I came back after the bad beginning.
“I’d love to play that first hole again. I was too aggressive going for the green and hit my second shot in the water. Then, I three-putted.”
On No. 4, Johnson put his second shot in front of the green and then chipped in.
“I’m already thinking about next year,” he said. “I’m going to work on fine-tuning my game. My goal is to get to the State Championships.”
Montgomery coach Jess Stimack felt his team didn’t play its best.
“Except for McLaughlin, nothing really clicked for us,” he said. “The course was there to be had but we couldn’t take advantage when we had opportunities.”
Nick Rogers, the Vikings’ No. 1 player, shot 76. The reigning All-Empire Player of the Year is a scratch golfer. “He couldn’t get dialed in,” Stimack said. “He was off with his irons.”
The other Montgomery scores were: Nick Bautista 80, Paul Kuhn 81, Kousuke Tominaga 81 and Carlo Lanford 89.
McLaughlin played his best round of the year.
“That was as good as I’ve played,” the senior said. “My driving and putting were both on.”
The highlight of McLaughlin’s came on No. 14 which is a par 5.
“I was on the green in two and made a 45-foot putt,” he said.
“I played a practice round over the course last Wednesday and that really helped. It’s a difficult course if you don’t know where to hit the ball.”