“Bradley Johnson is going to be a star golfer someday,” a neighbor said to John Hayden, then nine years old. “He’s coming up No. 14 right now.”
Hayden, just starting to gain interest in the game of golf, ran from his home near Graystone Country Club (Birmingham, Ala.) to catch a glimpse of the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up. Little did he know, that glimpse would be one of the last that he would see of the promising young talent in Johnson.
“I brought a golf ball over to Bradley and asked him to sign it,” reflected now 16-year-old Hayden. “He kind of laughed, then smiled and signed the ball.”
A few weeks later, Johnson’s life was tragically cut short in a two-car accident. Johnson, just shy of making a college decision, left behind unfinished dreams and a younger brother Michael who helped establish Birdies for Bradley. Michael’s vision, along with the help of other family members, was to create a fundraiser through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program that benefitted the Bradley Johnson Memorial Foundation and the ACE Grant.
Michael, a two-time AJGA champion, is now playing golf at Auburn, but looks to younger AJGA juniors to continue the Birdies for Bradley program. It didn’t take much to convince Hayden.
Hayden has only participated in a few Qualifiers so far and yet his contributions to the Birdies for Bradley program via Leadership Links are significant.
“I’m almost to the $1,000 mark,” Hayden said. “It’s been really easy to raise the money and it’s for a great cause. I’m just really trying to keep the spirit of Bradley alive because I’ve never heard a bad thing about him. He was a class act and I’m striving to model myself after him.”
Hayden looks forward to raising more funds for the Birdies for Bradley program in 2012. He will most likely participate in his first AJGA tournament this summer and hopes to rack up the birdies.
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“I’m not only focusing on birdies to help me post a good score, but the Leadership Links program will turn those birdies into money for a good cause.”
For more information about the AJGA Leadership Links program please visit: http://www.ajga.org/LL/Index.aspLeadership Links juniors participating in the Birdies for Bradley program will qualify for the USGA matching fund for up to $1,000 raised. Alabama residents participating will get a 100% match.