Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, although only ranked 82nd in the world, has found himself with celebrity status in the world of golf.
Johnston is perhaps more well known for his buoyant and endearing charisma, rather than his golfing accolades; although his ability should not be doubted.
The 27-year-old’s unique nickname, Beef, dates back to when he was a schoolchild.
He explained at a press conference earlier this year: “When I was a kid, if I grow my hair out I’m a quarter-Jamaican so it goes curly, and one of my friends said ‘your head looks like a big bit of beef, you’ve got a beefhead’.”
It is Johnston’s ability to find humour in any situation, even leading up to a major championship, that has turned him into such an adulated figure. At the 2016 Open Championship, Johnston elected to pose with a burger for a photoshoot, which he then preceded to to tee up and demolish with his driver.
Combine this with his willingness to stop for a fan photo or autograph in any scenario and you have the recipe for an idolised sporting role model.
Johnston is greeted by fans with deep ‘Beef’ chants that resonate like a boo. As a fan-favourite, though, it can be assured that the fans are not attempting to jeer the London-born star.
Most recently, at the British Masters, Johnston was mobbed by one of the biggest followings in a strong line-up. One fan could be found walking around The Grove with Johnston’s signature on his forehead.
The interest in Beef has become an obsession, and he is very grateful for it:
“This is what it’s about; you dream of this as a kid.” he told the New York Post.
He believes the popularity he has gained can be credited to the fact that he’s ‘really down to earth’ and a ‘normal guy’.
It’s important to note, however, that Beef can back his heroic status with excellent ability, and his journey to this point in his career has not been plain sailing.
Beef’s initial break-through came in 2011 when he graduated to the European Tour from the Challenge Tour, Jamega Tour and PGA EuroPro Tour. However, after he failed to make any top 10 finishes in his maiden season, he failed to retain his membership.
By 2013 the Englishman was back on the European Challenge Tour but failed to regain European Tour status after finishing 68th at the Order of Merit. At the end of the 2013 season he elected to enter the European Tour Qualifying School; he finished 52nd and, again, failed to regain his tour card.
The second break-through finally came in 2014 when, on the European Challenge Tour, Beef won both the Scottish Hydro Challenge and the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge. This left him first in the Order of Merit and, at last, Beef was back on the European Tour.
The rollercoaster continued in 2015 when Beef would have been hoping for better again. He missed 11 of 25 cuts, but a 10th place finish at the Turkish Airlines Open ensured he would, for the first time, retain his European Tour status.
In 2016 Beef came to the forefront of the golfing world. In a very difficult Open de España, Beef’s one over par finish was enough to secure him his first win on the European Tour, after which he commented, in typical Beef fashion: “I can’t wait to get hammered and see my mum.”
He followed his maiden European Tour victory with top 10 finishes at the BMW PGA Championship and the 145th Open Championship.
Meanwhile, Beef entered the web.com tour in attempt to gain a PGA Tour card for the 2016/17 season. His fourth place finish at the Albertsons Boise Open has secured him a place on golf’s biggest tour stage.
With a 2016 season of four top 10 finishes, including a win and an 8th place finish at a major, behind him, 2017 could be the time for Andrew Johnston to rise to the heights of the game.