Northern Michigan University Wildcats sign top Upper Peninsula golfer from Escanaba

Paxton Johnson

ESCANABA — Paxton Johnson is ready to take on the next level in her blossoming golf career after signing scholarship papers to pursue that at Northern Michigan University on Tuesday.

The Escanaba High School senior said academics were a primary factor in her decision.

“It is a very good school and I’m going to major in biochemics, and the golf team is good,” Johnson said. “The offer they gave me I couldn’t pass up.”

Johnson, who also looked at NCAA Division I Central Michigan and Oakland universities, didn’t want to go south for school or golf, where the weather conditions are kinder.

“I wanted to stay mostly in the Midwest,” she said, admitting the thought of getting further away from home was intriguing. “Here, academics are No. 1, down south it is more (for) athletics than academics. I want to focus more on school.”

Johnson has established excellent golfing credentials the past several years, akin to those by similarly accomplished Marquette’s Carley Saint-Onge and Avery Rochester.

Johnson is a three-time Upper Peninsula Division 1 high school champion and last summer won her first U.P. Ladies Golf Association crown. Saint-Onge (2011) and Rochester (2012 and 2013) are the only other girls to win U.P. high school and UPLGA titles in the same year.

Johnson, who admits to a very competitive nature on the course, said that while she has always been serious about the game, it rose to another level as she started winning tournaments.

“I kept pushing myself,” she said. “I wanted to play golf beyond high school. There was a point (then) where I took it more seriously.”

A left-hander, Johnson exhibits excellent distance and accuracy off the tee and has a nice touch on approach shots. Buoyed by that talent, she has taken her game to tournaments downstate, where she has been able to work on her competitive game while playing tougher opponents.

“That increases my competitive edge,” she said.

Her immediate goal entering her final high school season is to win her fourth straight U.P. title and help the Eskymos to a fourth straight team crown. She would also like to defend her UPLGA title, with that tourney this summer at her home course, Escanaba Country Club.

She lives by the fourth green, and in addition to working in the pro shop, plays there frequently. She is the reigning women’s club champion as well.