EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Michael Johnson enjoyed the time he played in the U.S. Amateur in 2012 and wants to get that national championship feeling again at this year's U.S. Open.
Johnson, who this spring became La Salle's first all-Atlantic Ten Conference selection, took the first step Monday at Hidden Creek Golf Club when he fired a 1-under-par 71 in Open local qualifying to gain one of six available spots into the next round.
Alex Hicks of Cape May Court House, N.J., the runner-up in last year's Philadelphia Amateur, and Jose Garrido, coach of the Colombian national golf team, tied for medalist honors with rounds of 70 on a sunny but windy day by the Shore.
Johnson, 22, who will take part in La Salle's commencement on May 18, enjoyed a solid spring of competition and carried over his play to Monday, carding three birdies against two bogeys. He said he played solid in the wind and played smart, not going for the heroic shots.
Johnson competed in the 2012 U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club. He did not qualify for match play, but he said he learned a lot about what it took to be a good player.
"I learned that I needed to change and I needed to get better," he said. "I played with a couple of kids - Max Homa, Michael Kim - that are tearing it up on the [PGA] Tour. I got to see a lot of good golf and I realized what I need to do. I'm really taking that seriously, trying to get better."
Johnson advanced through local qualifying for the first time. He lost a playoff last year at Applebrook that would have allowed him to move on.
Hicks, 21, who just completed his junior year at William and Mary, birdied his last two holes - the eighth and ninth at Hidden Creek - to check in with his 70.
Garrido, 35, who played college golf at Brigham Young, had an interesting path after one of his players on the Colombian national team, 2010 Princeton graduate Juan Pablo Candela, convinced him to join him at Hidden Creek. He ended up advancing to sectional qualifying for the first time.
Sophomore Brandon Matthews of Temple has been selected to compete in the 2014 NCAA Division I championships and has been assigned to the North Carolina State regional where play will begin on May 15.
Matthews, of Dupont, Pa., made the field as an individual contestant, the first in Temple history. He is the first Owl to make it to the NCAAs since the 1997 team qualified for the postseason.
"To be one of only 45 individuals selected is obviously a very big honor and to be thought of as one of college's best golfers is a great feeling," said Matthews, who was a quarterfinalist in last year's U.S. Amateur.
Matthews, who was Golf Association of Philadelphia player of the year in 2013, tied for fourth in the American Conference championship last week.
a-Alex Hicks, Cape May Court House 34-36-70
Jose Garrido, Colombia 36-34-70
a-Michael Johnson, Ambler 35-36-71
x-a-James Braunsberg, Ply. Meeting 37-36-73
x-a-Matthew Bassler, Baltimore 39-34-73
x-a-Michael Kania, Haverford 36-37-73
Tyler Jaramillo, Hewlett, N.Y. 38-35-73
x-Pat Wilson, Andover, N.J. 36-38-74