Johnston named AJGA Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award
Iowan uses golf to create awareness, raise money for substance abuse prevention
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida -- Ian Johnston of Swisher, Iowa, was awarded the American Junior Golf Association’s Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award on Sunday, November 18during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Since 1978, the Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award has been annually presented to a junior golfer who best promotes integrity and sportsmanship in their golf game. In 2000, the award was named for Jerry Cole, a longtime friend and AJGA board member. The bronze replica of Jerry’s favorite hat is a reminder of how proud he was of his association and is one of the AJGA’s longest-running honors.
Recipients of the Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award impact others in a positive manner and truly embody the spirit of the game through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program. Begun in 2010, Leadership Links furthers the AJGA mission to help develop young men and women by teaching charitable-giving skills and service-oriented practices at an early age. Junior golfers have raised more than $2.5 million for more than 2,000 distinct programs and volunteered more than 50,000 service hours.
Johnston, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play college golf at South Dakota, has used the game as an outlet and a platform to raise money and awareness for substance abuse prevention
On October 4, 2016, the then Cedar Rapids Prairie High School sophomore – and the team’s No. 1 player – doubled the final hole at Pheasant Ridge during a district golf tournament to miss the Class 4A state playoffs by one shot.
Ian was devastated, until he came home to learn that his older brother, Seth Carnicle, had died just two miles from where he played golf that day. Heroin took Seth’s life at 23.
Ian and Seth were close growing up, but their paths had diverged. Ian pursued national junior golf – Seth withdrew from his interests in favor of drugs and alcohol.
Since that day, Ian has been dedicated to keeping Seth’s memory alive through raising awareness and money to combat the opioid crisis. Ian’s primary charity is the Iowa Area Substance Abuse Council, one of the most comprehensive programs in the state, and he has raised more than $25,000 with support from the Iowa high school golf community and many others – in the forms of $20 pressed into his hands before events, prayers, and offers to do more.
In 2017, Ian’s Cedar Rapids Prairie team again played its district meet at Pheasant Ridge. Ian birdied the final hole to help his team advance to the state tournament and he’s been a four-year team MVP.
“I feel every time I step on the course, it’s for [Seth],” Ian said of his new tradition of pointing to the sky. Ian feels his brother is now watching over him, and his golf game.
In addition to his high school success, Ian won his first AJGA tournament in 2018 at the UHY LLP CPA’s Junior Championship near St. Louis. In three seasons of AJGA golf, he connected with AJGA alumni Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson. Outside, Ian won the Iowa Junior Amateur in 2018 and won a total of seven tournaments in five states. In the classroom, he was awarded high honor roll.
Eric Columbus, Cedar Rapids Prairie head golf coach, established an award in Ian’s name which will be awarded to a future senior for “excellence in the classroom, community and on the course.” Ian has also set up an annual $1,000 Ian Johnston / Seth Carnicle Prairie Golf Scholarship to be funded through his future fundraising efforts, including when he leaves for college.
“He’s the type of kid you want on your team no matter what kind of golfer they are,” Columbus said. “He’d be one of my all-time favorite golfers if he couldn’t break 100. He’s that kind of kid.”
WATCH: Ian’s acceptance speech
WATCH: AJGA Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award intro