Athletic talent often runs in families. A mix of genetics and dedication, once in a while, produces a dynasty. LeBron James is attempting this today as his son Bronny works to become the next great NBA superstar. Sometimes, like with Tom Brady’s kids, the athletic prowess manifests outside their chosen sport. For golf star Dustin Johnson, his family dynasty dates back to his grandfather. And it wasn’t a lineage forged on the golf course.
Dustin Johnson’s upbringing took a swerve early on
Johnson grew up in South Carolina with a family that put sports to the center of their lives. They functioned as a close-knit unit, with Johnson and his brother Austin becoming especially close. The brothers developed an affinity for golf and became lifelong partners in that endeavor. They remain close today, and Austin still serves as Dustin’s caddy.
But, in their teen years, a fracture formed in the family. According to Heavy, Johnson’s parents’ divorce was bad enough that the former couple has not spoken since. Sports Illustrated reports that Johnson started skipping school and eventually turned to criminal acts. At its worst, this included a conviction over buying bullets for a stolen gun. The weapon was later used in a murder; only a governor’s pardon kept Johnson out of prison.
Johnson’s repeated brushes with the law threatened to derail any attempt at a golf career. The echoes of this period haunted his pro career for a time, too, with a DUI charge and positive tests for cocaine derailing him. As always, relying on his family helped him overcome those incidents and allowed him to finally, in recent years, reach his true potential.
Johnson’s family focus on athletics
Johnson’s grandmother Carol Jones helped get him on the right path using his love for sports. She shepherded his nascent golf career and researched the perfect school for him to attend. According to a PGA Tour interview, Jones personally called Johnson’s future alma mater, Coastal Carolina University and said, “Are you interested in recruiting my grandson?”
Jones already knew how to be a fierce advocate for the athletes in her family. Golf Digest reports that Johnson’s father, Scott, was a South Carolina All-State receiver. Football is the furthest thing from golf, conceptually. But that experience set Jones up with the knowledge to mold her golf-obsessed grandson into a future Masters champion.
Johnson’s mother’s side loved sports, too. Golf Digest also notes that his grandfather on his mom’s side, Art Whisant, was an All-ACC basketball player at South Carolina. That’s where the 6-foot-4 Johnson likely inherited his ability to dunk. The skills serves him well in casual games on the PGA Tour. Friends know him as the best dunker in golf, an unofficial honor he cherishes.
Johnson overcame his issues to become the golf story of the pandemic-addled 2020 season
According to Golf Magazine, Johnson’s five-stroke victory at the Masters solidified him as the most exciting golfer in the sport today. His wiry, yet muscular build is emblematic of the new school of golfers. It’s the big payoff to years of figuring out how to turn his long drives into more than a powerful statement of his strength.
Johnson is far from the image of an overweight John Daly, cigarette dangling as he dominates his contemporaries. He instead represents a blend of power and accuracy, a transformation of golfers into looking more the part of the athletes they always have been. For five years, Johnson slowly transformed himself into the top golfer on the PGA circuit, and the model for the next generation to follow.