LAFAYETTE _ The ball that Annika Johnson used to shoot a 40 and win the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Girls Golf Tournament will very likely have a special spot in the case in the family's dining room.
Johnson, a 15-year-old Kittatinny freshman, expects it will be right next to the ball her father, Keith, had LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam sign and inscribe during the ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township back in 2001.
That was the year Annika Johnson was born. And, yes, her parents named her after the Swedish golfer who won 72 tournaments while competing on the tour.
"My dad taught himself golf and knew he wanted me to play," Johnson said. "Annika Sorenstam was successful and he wanted me to be successful. He's a big fan of hers. I began playing when I was 4 and was in U.S. Kids events at 6."
The inscription on the ball: To Annika from Annika.
As expected, Annika Johnson called her father at work to tell him about her stellar nine-hole performance on the Valley Course at Farmstead Golf & Country Club on Wednesday, June 1. Kittatinny coach Matt Majka also texted him with the news.
Johnson said coming out atop the field was "a complete shocker." Chatham senior Jess Barry, the Morris County champion, carded a 43 to finish second. Pequannock senior Julia Taormina had a 44 to finish third. Completing the first six were Mendham's Caroline Fischbach (45), Morris Knolls' Christi Conroy (49) and Montville's Emily Chang (49).
"All I wanted to do was go out and have fun," said Johnson, eighth at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Boys Tournament with an 80. "Winning was an extra thing that happened. I was relaxed. There are so many amazing players everywhere.
"I was happy with the weather. I just had states and it was a million degrees. I'm familiar with Farmstead. I know the course. That helped. I was calm."
The 5-foot-2 Johnson, who works with Tom Reynolds and MaryBeth Kohberger at Newton Country Club, had a very strong outing. Bad shots were few as she traversed what she described as a "winding, twisting, hilly" layout.
On Nos. 1, 6 and 9, Johnson had pars. All of the other holes were bogeys but she was in command.
The par-4 sixth hole, which has a blind tee shot, presented a challenge because Johnson had to go over water and she "freaks out" when she encounters it. This time, she got over the small pond and landed on the top of the sloping green. The ball rolled down, coming to a rest 10 feet from the hole.
"Everyone cheered and told me it was great," Johnson said of the placement of her second shot.
When she got to the ninth hole, she got it a bit of trouble but salvaged it with a punch shot, avoiding an overhanging tree branch. The punch shot was Johnson's second on the hole and she made par with a pair of uphill putts.
Taormina, headed to Babson College in the fall, was upset that the NJAC was her final high school golf event. To ensure that she'd do well, Taormina played Farmstead last Friday and wound up with a 37.
"The NJAC is my favorite," Taormina said. "It's the most fun and it finishes the season. I've always liked Farmstead. It's a nice little course."
She concluded her round on the seventh and eighth holes, which were dramatically different.
No. 7 was long and she made par. Taormina, relying on good approach shots, launched a good drive and was on the green in three strokes, leaving herself 10 feet from the pin. Her putt skidded past the cup but she dropped a 6-foot putt.
The eighth, a par 3, did not go well. One of the coaches who escorts the groups came up to her when she was using her club to align herself on the tee and warned about touching the ball before striking it. Only 7 over when she got the warning, Taormina needed six shots and got a double par.
"I was really upset about it," Taormina said. "I'm not going to blame the coach but I was just doing what I've always done. I was a little thrown off but it's not the person's fault."
Conroy's putter failed her and negated the excellent shots she made with her irons.
"I missed a lot of putts I should have made," said Conroy, also a member of Morris Knolls' volleyball and basketball programs. "Three or four lipped out. I'm normally better on the greens."
On No. 9, her third hole, Conroy picked up her only par. She hit her 3-wood left onto another fairway. However, she got onto the green with her next shot and needed two putts to complete the hole.
NJAC GIRLS TOURNAMENT RESULTS
Annika Johnson, Kittatinny, 40
Jess Barry, Chatham, 43
Julia Taormina, Pequannock, 44
Caroline Fischbach, Mendham, 45
Christi Conroy, Morris Knolls, 49
Emily Cheng, Montville, 49
Lindsay Perrin, Mendham, 50
Sarah Chelo, Morristown, 50
Sarah Acquaviva, Pequannock, 51
Mary Kate McGlone, Villa Walsh, 52