In the days before the iPod, if you listened to music outside you had a “ghetto blaster” sometimes referred to as a “boombox”. Swaney, whose family lived on Hastings CC, grew up on the golf course. From an early age he eagerly waited to play a few holes with his dad after supper. He spent hours on the putting green chipping and putting and learned to compete beating the bigger kids out of nickels and dimes.
Though not a pure swinger, he became scrappy, get-it-up-and-from-anywhere, scratch player. Once you got to know Swaney, you loved him; he always had big smile and a quick wit to go along with all his little nervous tics and twitches. Swaney loved to needle his opponent, and often screamed his favorite expression, “God I love that power fade!” after hitting the fairway on a pressure filled tee shot.
But Swaney had one big problem – he got so hyped up as the tension grew in big tournaments, he many times made unforced errors. He tried alcohol and an occasional joint to keep himself calm. He was always looking for the answer.
When I got the pairing sheet for the annual Hildebrandt Invitational Tournament, at Hastings Country Club, I was happy to see that I was playing with my old friend Greg Swanson. When I first saw Swaney practicing his power fade on the range, he had a set of earphones on his head. When I walked over to shake hands and say hello, he jerked the earphones off and said, “R.J., I have found the answer – Classical Music, it keeps me calm. See I even have two young caddies, this strong young boy for my clubs and this cute girl for my boombox.”
When the starter announced, “Now on the tee from Hastings Country Club, Greg Swanson, play away please.” Swaney, dressed in new white FootJoys, black shorts and a new Hastings CC logo shirt (he still looked scruffy – some guys you just can’t clean up), removed his earphones and teed it up with a relaxed look on his face. His expression immediately changed – he popped-up the power fade directly toward the lake that guards the right side of the fairway. We all held our breath as the ball came to rest on a point of land that jutted into the lake. Swaney leaped off the elevated tee and took off, then remembered his relaxing boombox. With earphones on and a caddy on each side Swaney strolled slowly to his ball.
The lie was okay, but Swaney was forced to play his bread and butter shot, the power fade, around a big tree on the far side of the pond. Swaney and his club caddy were standing on the sliver of land that extended into the pond. The relaxed Swaney said to his young caddy, “Son, I am going to cut this one right around that big tree. So watch it close, follow the ball flight with your eyes.” The excited caddy handed Swaney his 5-wood and placed the bag on his shoulder; he was ready to go.
The “relaxed” Swaney was getting nervous and twitchy. He took two big practice swings, the divots landed far into the lake. With all eyes on the ball, Swaney made perfect contact, his ball made the right turn around the tree toward the green. Then we heard a scream, Swaney’s caddy had followed the ball with his eyes and also his feet. His first step was into the lake; he went deeper as the slippery mud bottom sucked him in.
We spent the next ten minutes and used all of our towels cleaning up Swaney’s clubs, bag and caddy. And bowed our heads to honor the end of another of Swaney’s answers, the boombox!
Swaney is now playing the big golf course in the sky and God is watching his power fade. Every member of Hastings CC has a Greg Swanson story. Swaney left his mark!