Athlete of the week: John Butler, Elk River, golf: Getting serious
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Once John Butler got serious about golf, he became one more reason Elk River keeps winning championships.
Butler started at age four, under the tutelage of his step-dad, Steve Range, who became a golf enthusiast after playing college hockey.
Through ninth grade, Butler played golf just for fun. He also played soccer, baseball and hockey in grade school.
“Then, the summer going into my sophomore year, I really got into golf,” Butler said. “I practiced every day, especially on my short game.”
It paid off. Butler has helped the Elks win three straight NWSC crowns and two straight section titles, making all-conference and playing in the state tourney each year.
Butler, 6-0 and 170, played his best at the end of his prep career, leading the Elks to a section championship with a team-low 37-37-40-114, then leading again at state, tying for 10th with 74-75-149, both at Bunker Hills.
Assessed coach Dave Conley: “He hits pretty long, and he is a good putter, and good with irons. Sometimes he hooks, that’s when he struggles. He just loves to play, and he is a fun-loving, enjoyable kid.”
Butler averaged 79 in 10th grade, qualified for state individually by winning a playoff for the las slot at sectionals, and placed 37th with 80-78-158.
As a junior he averaged 76, went to state with the team, and placed 21st with 79-75-154, helping the Elks capture third place as a team.
This year he struggled a while but finished strong, averaging 78.5, including 37.4 for eighth-place in the conference. He shot 74 the final NWSC meet and stayed hot at section and state.
Along with Range and Conley, a good influence has been Chase Hahne, the Elks’ No. 1. “Being with Chase has helped me a lot, too,” Butler said of his best bud since eighth grade.
Butler’s best round was 71 as a junior at Fox Hollow. He shot 68 at his home course, Links at Northfork, in a non-competition round. Best part of his game? “Probably 60-yard pitch shots. Anything inside 120 yards I can get it close,” said Butler, who drives in the 270-280 range.
Another career highlight is last summer’s State Open, where he shot 74-75-and made the cut.
He will attend college and play golf in Arizona.
THE BUTLER SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Jane Butler and Steve Range; sister Ashley Robinson, 23 … Sport: golf … Academics: B’s and C’s … College plans: looking in Arizona; golf, business major
Favorite stuff – Class: math … TV: “Family Guy” … Movie: “The Hangover” …. Reading: Golf Digest … Team: Twins … Athlete: Bubba Watson … Food: Chinese fare, especially chicken chow mein … Drink: Gatorade and Powerade … Kickback activity: “Playing golf!” … Place he’d like to visit: TPC Sawgrass