The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Zach Johnson Drive NE: a special street for a Masters champ and native son

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on April 7, 2008 at 7:52 pm

This is the week that Cedar Rapids native son Zach Johnson attempts to defend his 2007 title as champion of the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament.

It’s hard to forget last year’s accomplishment if you’re paying attention out on one stretch of 35th Street NE.

It took the City Council, led by former council member Chuck Swore, just five weeks to pass a resolution to change the name of the final piece of Eastern Avenue NE – the piece between 35th and 36th streets NE – to Zach Johnson Drive NE.

The stretch leads into the Elmcrest Country Club where Johnson played his golf growing up in Cedar Rapids.

Vern Wright, the general manager at Elmcrest, says the new street name and new green city street sign haven’t become entirely old hat after being in place for nearly 11 months.

“From time to time, you do notice it,” Wright says. “Just simply because it is what it is.

“The street name is special just as Zach is, just as Cedar Rapids is because it has someone who has won that Masters championship  jacket.”

Only 30 golf courses in the nation can say they are the spots where a Masters champion learned his golf, Wright says. The number of courses would be greater, but several who have won the tournament are from abroad and several have won the tournament more than once.

Here’s hoping Zach adds his name to that final group, Wright says.

Out on Zach Johnson Drive NE on Monday afternoon, the street sign was standing proudly and the two main potholes in the street had been pretty well filled in by city crews.

“The terrible winter didn’t kill it,” Wright says of the sign and street. . “… I think there are a couple of potholes. But what street in the city didn’t suffer from Mother Nature’s winter this year.”

No one has an address on Zach Johnson Drive NE, so no one had to change a street address on Johnson’s behalf.

At a public hearing a year ago at City Hall, Audrey Rahn, who in the past has regularly attended council meetings and regularly has commented to the council, was the only one to question the street-name change.

“Golf is a game, it’s not something to be taken seriously,” Rahn said back then. “How different is your life since this guy won this green jacket?”

Council member Swore was quick to note than even Rahn was aware of the significance of the green jacket.

Swore said he hoped he never grew up so much that he would lose the capacity to get excited for the community over an achievement like Johnson’s.

P.T. Larson, a regular candidate for City Council, has suggested that the city also name a street for Kurt Warner, National Football League quarterback and native son.

 

 

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