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Henderson doctor uses golf course to escape stress of job

Updated May 24, 2017 - 5:31 pm

Pace of play is a major issue in golf, and most of us dread the five-hour round. We should all be inspired by Dr. Joe Johnson and his golfing buddies.

“Golfers who like to play fast migrate together and sometimes we play in less than three hours,” Johnson said of his regular group, which has the standing first tee time on the weekends at Las Vegas Country Club.

Johnson, 68, is an avid golfer and has been practicing medicine in Henderson since 1977. He originally moved to Las Vegas in 1976 to serve as the flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and has been ingrained in the community since.

Along with running his family practice, Johnson is the house doctor for all MGM arenas and other local venues and has been on call for Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Luciano Pavarotti and many other stars. He got the job in the early 1980s when he treated a member of the rock group Kiss.

Because of patient confidentiality, Johnson never discusses treatments, but it’s public knowledge he helped diagnose Lon Kruger’s heart problems before he underwent a sextuple bypass in 2007 when Kruger was the UNLV basketball coach.

Johnson, a 14 handicap, spends 235 days a year at his practice, then serves as the event physician 125 nights a year. Despite the dizzying schedule, he finds time to play about 175 rounds each year, plus get lessons from Butch Harmon or other pros at Harmon’s school at Rio Secco. He was even a featured student in a Harmon how-to video.

The good doctor is a longtime member of Las Vegas Country Club and also often plays SouthShore, a personal favorite.

“Golf is my form of relaxation and the way I completely get away from work,” Johnson said. “I answer very few phone calls unless it’s life threatening. It’s a total escape for two or three hours, and I don’t have to think about anything but playing golf with my buddies. I love the outdoors, and there’s nothing prettier than a golf course.”

Girls allowed

Veronica Joels, a junior at The Meadows, finished second in the Class 2A state championship last week. Joels, who has committed to play for the UNLV women’s golf team, was competing in the boys division.

Starting Saturday, Joels returns to playing against females when she teams with fellow Las Vegas junior Morgan Goldstein in the USGA Women’s Four Ball Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They won a qualifier for the event in September.

Deal of the week

Retired and active military get a rate of $49 at Royal Links on Monday and also receive a free hero card, which offers discounts for military and first responders.

Father and son bragging rights

Entries are being accepted for the Southern Nevada Golf Association Father and Son Classic on June 11 at Las Vegas National. All ages are welcome. The format allows a father’s score to be paired together with up to three offspring. Go to SNGA.org to register.

Stars on, off course

Musicians Kid Rock and Darius Rucker arrived together at the Tiger Jam after-party Saturday night at Topgolf Las Vegas. They then headed to the chairman’s suite and met up with World Series of Poker star Phil Helmuth.

Earlier in the evening, Rucker headlined a private dinner poolside at the MGM. On Friday night, Helmuth hosted a Tiger Jam poker tournament at MGM, where supermodel Kate Upton learned strategy from poker pro Daniel Negreanu.

The golf notebook appears each Thursday. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider on Twitter.

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