George "G.G." Johnson impacted many throughout his life and athletic career, though his name may not be as recognizable among many native Columbus athletes. Johnson, 75, died last Saturday in Atlanta of heart failure, leaving behind a long legacy.
A professional golfer on the PGA Tour, Johnson qualified for the U.S. Open in 1965, became the fourth African-American to win a PGA Tour event at the Azalea Open in 1971 and is a lifetime member of the Tour. He is the first and only African-American head golf pro in Kentucky, where he led the Bobby Nichols Golf Course in Louisville.
As one of the first African-Americans to earn their Tour card, he helped pave the way for modern golfers like Tiger Woods.
In 2008, he was inducted into the African-American Golfers Hall of Fame.
Born in Columbus in 1938, Johnson began his golf career at 15 years old as a caddy at the segregated club, now called Country Club of Columbus.
Wealthy members of the country club would hand off their golf clubs to Johnson and his friends after buying new ones. They would take them to a vacant lot at the Booker T. Washington apartment complex, where he lived, to learn how to hit, setting up cans and doing their best to knock them over with the golf ball.
After graduating from Spencer High in 1957, Johnson eventually moved to Atlanta to increase his opportunities in the game. There, he won four consecutive tournaments in 1967 and decided to try to join the PGA.
He received his card after completing the PGA qualifying program in 1968 and began to compete with the best golfers in the world. He won the Azalea Open in 1971, defeating Ralph Johnston on the first hole of sudden death.
In Louisville, the George "G.G." Johnson Golf Scramble is held in June to raise money for the Urban League Golf Program Scholarship Fund, which helps award high school seniors with scholarships to college.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, LaJune, and daughter, Kristi.
A viewing will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. today at the Gust Thornhill funeral home in East Point, Ga.
The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Per his request, he will be cremated and his ashes scattered on the 18th hole of a golf course in Atlanta.