Golfer Johnson to leave ASU, turn professional

Jennifer Johnson, runner-up at this year's NCAA Championships, has decided to leave ASU after her freshman season and turn pro. (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Jaeckels)

Golfer Jennifer Johnson has decided to forgo her final three years of eligibility and turn professional, she confirmed to the State Press on Thursday.

Johnson was the runner-up at the NCAA Championships in May on her way to being named the National Golf Coaches Association Freshman of the Year. She was also tabbed a First-Team All-American by the NGCA.

The 19-year-old said an opportunity to concentrate solely on improving her golf game was the biggest factor in her decision to leave school.

“It was tough because I really liked ASU and I was really close to the team,” Johnson said of her decision in a telephone interview. “The coaches are great, and that’s what made it so tough.”

Johnson will compete as an amateur at the U.S. Open, which begins on July 5 at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., and will then play in four events on the Duramed Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, before starting LPGA qualifying school in September.

Johnson said she will take a lot away from her lone season at ASU.

“My short game and my course management got really good,” she said. “Coach [Melissa] Luellen and Coach [Missy Farr-]Kaye stressed the importance of always practicing short game … and they helped us out on the course a lot with course management.”

It has already been a busy summer for Johnson, who helped lead the U.S. team to a victory over Great Britain and Ireland at the prestigious Curtis Cup last month. She won her final match over GB&I’s Rachel Jennings to clinch the deciding point for the Americans.

“It was the highlight of my amateur career so far,” Johnson told the United States Golf Association after the match.

In addition to Johnson’s departure, the ASU women, who finished fourth at the NCAA Championships in May after winning the national title in 2009, will also lose Colombian native Juliana Murcia to graduation.

Murcia had a stellar senior season at ASU, earning First-Team All-America honors from the NGCA and Golfweek. She was also named the Pac-10 Scholar Athlete of the Year for women’s golf, graduating in May with a 3.8 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in Art.