COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A Columbus man who made a name for himself in the golf world has died.
George "G.G." Johnson died last week at the age of 76, just months after retiring from the game.
Johnson was born in Columbus on December 8, 1938 and originally lived in the Booker T. Washington apartment complex. He graduated from Spencer High in 1957.
Johnson has been inducted into several halls of fame, getting his start at 15 years old as a caddy at what is now the Columbus Country Club.
At that time the club was segregated and caddying was one of the only jobs for black people there... but as his nephew Timothy Williams tells News Leader 9, Johnson was never afraid of stepping over the race line.
"He didn't let the segregation of the game stop him from learning the game and bettering himself by practicing with other black kids he grew up with," Williams said.
After hours he and his friends would practice in a vacant lot by Booker T. Washington apartments working to perfect their swings and game using used golf clubs they got from country club members.
Johnson is the first and only African-American head golf pro in Kentucky. He turned pro in 1964 and qualified for the U.S. Open in 1965.
He received his tour card after successfully completing the PGA qualifying program (or graduating "Q" school) in 1968 and began playing in tournaments with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Miller Barber and Tom Kite.
In 1971 he won the Azalea Open and became the fourth African- American to ever win a PGA tournament.
He married his wife Lejune in 1972, and they had a daughter named Kristi.
George spent a total of 10 years on the PGA Tour, and three on the senior tour, and remains a lifetime member of the PGA. In 1997, George and his family moved to Louisville where he became head golf pro at bobby Nichols golf course in Louisville Metro.
His passion for the game translates to the young people he continues to teach today.
In 2008, he was inducted into the African-American Golfers Hall of Fame. He volunteered his time at First Tee of Louisville which teaches youths Golf and Life Skills and for the past 14 years he has been responsible for a Golf scholarship with awards $10,000 yearly to its recipient through the George "G.G." Johnson Golf Scramble.
The George "G.G." Johnson Golf Scramble is held each June to raise money for the "Urban League Golf Program" Scholarship Fund. Adult golfers are partnered with young golfers who are participating in the Urban League Golfer Program. High school seniors are awarded the scholarships to help them attend the college or university of their choice.
The funeral for George Johnson was held Saturday, April 5 at Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
His viewing will be Friday April 4 at Gus Thornhill Funeral Home in East Point, Ga.