Kamaiu Johnson on His Improbable Rise to First PGA Tour Event: 'I'm Feeling Blessed'

The biggest day of Kamaiu Johnson's life is fast approaching.

"The best word to describe how I'm feeling is blessed," the 27-year-old Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour champion, who makes his first PGA Tour start at the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday, tells PEOPLE. "This is a massive opportunity for me, but I'm here on the shoulders of so many others starting all the way back with people like Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Jackie Robinson, and others who helped break barriers in sports — racial, financial or otherwise."

Johnson's rise has been slow and steady, with humble beginnings. According to the Tour, he was first discovered at around 13 years old. Assistant course pro Jan Auger spotted Johnson when he was practicing swings with a wooden stick outside of his apartment complex near Hilaman Golf Course in Tallahassee, Florida. At the time, Johnson had dropped out of school after struggling in "slow-learner" classes.

Auger invited him to the course at Hilaman, where Johnson was able to practice using proper clubs. He quickly made friends with the regulars there and improved his skills with their help.

"For me specifically, people like Jan Auger — who saw a young kid next to a golf course swinging a stick and invited me to hit a golf ball — forever changed the trajectory of my life," Johnson says. "I wouldn't have golf if it wasn't for her."

Johnson will now compete at the Farmers Insurance Open after being given a sponsor's exemption — a practice that allows an events sponsor to fill in spots with golfers of their choosing.

"I'm certainly not the only person with a story of overcoming obstacles. I just look back on the number of times that my life could have taken a different path," Johnson explains. "Some of it is luck, but a lot of it is hard work. My life made me who I am today, so I wouldn't change any of it."

"The scars that I have, the moments of hardship, those memories and experiences push me to succeed," he adds. "I'm still so far from where I want to be, but this is a step in the right direction to get there."

And when it comes to those hardships that he's endured, Johnson says there have been "too many to count."

"Every time my car has broken down, which happened as recently as a couple months ago," he recalls. "Every time I've had to borrow money or been on my last $3 in my checking account. Every time I've had to sleep on a friend's couch for a couple months."

"Golf might be the most difficult sport to succeed in because of the fine line between good and great, and the financial resources that it takes to chase the dream of being on the PGA TOUR," he says. "The APGA Tour that I play on now gives people like me a place to improve, a place for those of us who don't have the resources that others might to invest in tools and equipment and trainers to keep getting better. [CEO of the APGA Tour] Ken Bentley and the APGA Tour are a huge reason why I haven't given up."

The Farmers Insurance Open will take place between Jan. 28th and 31st at the Torrey Pines South Course in La Jolla, California.

While there, Johnson says he will be doing what he has always has — working on improving his game, learning as much as he can and keeping his eyes set on the future.

"I'm going to be a sponge and try to learn as much as I can about performing at the highest level. But I'm going to compete," he says. "Jan has a saying for me, that she and I have kind of adopted. 'Above no one, below no one.' I know in my heart, that I belong on the PGA TOUR. This may be my first PGA TOUR event, but it's not going to be my last. I don't have a plan B. This is it for me. So I'm ready to stack my game up against the best in the world."

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