Miller's Success Stems From Strong Family Foundation.
By Craig Jenkins
Johnny Miller is best known for his success on the PGA TOUR and in the broadcast booth for NBC Sports. Miller has played in more than 375 TOUR events, winning 24 times, including the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1973 and the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 1976. Less known is Miller's road to his success and his solid foundation of family support.
In the Beginning
When Johnny Miller was five years old, his father decided he was going to make a champion. Miller remembers his father going to the army surplus store to buy the necessary materials to convert a corner of their basement into an indoor practice facility.
In addition to the nets and mats that served as the driving range, Miller's father compiled teaching manuals, magazines and books written by the likes of Sam Sneed, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
"He just encouraged me every day to go out before dinner and we'd hit balls for an hour and a half," Miller recalls.
Miller spent two and a half years practicing indoors, not venturing to a golf course until several months after his seventh birthday. The youngster relished being able to swing his clubs indoors, and in turn he began to develop sound fundamentals.
"Working for two and a half years down in the basement, improving my swing was maybe the perfect way to start," Miller added.
At age eight, Miller began competing in junior tournaments and had immediate success. He won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, which was the only time he competed in the tournament.
Coming of Age
Miller was recruited by many schools, including Houston, UCLA and USC. Before long, Brigham Young head coach Karl Tucker came calling.
Turns out that Miller's mother had inquired about the BYU program, since the family was Mormon and Johnny had grown-up active in the church.
Miller did not know much about BYU's golf program at the time. He wanted to be involved in golf and eventually become a PGA Tour professional, which weighed heavy on the mind of a 17-year-old searching for a school that was the right fit.
After visiting the BYU campus and spending time with Tucker, Miller graduated high school at mid-semester, and moved to Provo, Utah to join the Cougars.
Miller spent his first year in school getting adjusted to college life and his new surroundings, all the while continuing to improve his game.
"We had an amazingly good team right out of the box," Miller said. "I'm very fortunate that we had a quality team that BYU never had before."
While the Cougars of the mid-1960s were beginning to make a name for themselves west of the Rockies, they were still searching for national respect.
Coach Dave Williams had the University of Houston program at the top, and UH was one team BYU could not defeat.
At the 1967 Pike's Peak Intercollegiate, Miller and BYU took a huge step forward.
"Probably one of my best memories was playing with Hal Underwood, who was the number one player at Houston." Miller reminisced.
BYU had a one shot lead over Houston as Miller and Underwood battled on the last hole. Miller had put himself in a bad position, left with a side-hill lie in six inches of rough and very little green to work with to save par.
Underwood, on the other hand, had a 15-foot putt for birdie.
Miller thought he had blown a chance for he and his teammates to knock-off the three-time defending national champions.
Shaking the thought from his mind, Miller tumbled the ball through the long grass with a couple of hops. The ball rolled down on the fringe, and rolled into the hole.
"We ended up beating Houston," Miller recalled. "I'll never forget Karl Tucker went crazy, jumping around on the green."
Miller had a stellar college career, earning All-WAC and All-America honors.
Even considering his on-course success, the best thing to come from Miller's time spent at BYU was his relationship with his wife, Linda.
Johnny and Linda Miller were married in 1969 after Johnny qualified for the PGA Tour.
One year later, their first son, John, was born. Following John was Kelly (1972) and Casi (1974). Scott (1976), Andy (1978) and Todd (1980) came afterward.
While Miller's best years on tour came from 1973-1976, he made a constant effort to spend time with his family.
"I learned from the church and school that no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home," Miller said. "So family was always a first priority, and golf was really a distant second."
Miller played a limited schedule through most of his professional career. While he loves the game, his strong family foundation has taught him to keep it in perspective.
With all four of his sons playing college golf, Miller has experienced both sides of the game: player and spectator.
Miller feels that in some ways he can identify with his sons more than most players' parents can, because of his experiences.
"I understand how tough the game is," Miller explained. "I've always used the principle that I'm going to celebrate the one-putts, the good bounces and the birdies, and understand the other things that happen."
Miller's philosophy shows that he realizes his sons are not golfers. They are part of his family...a wonderful family. They just happen to play golf...a wonderful game.