Will Swift wins state golf title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Selma’s Will Swift is still learning one of his jobs. Make that two of his jobs.

The former Auburn University golfer, who won the Men’s State Amateur Golf Championship on Sunday in Birmingham, recently graduated school and went to work for Blue Cross-Blue Shield. He just finished orientation for his new job and works as a customer service representative for the insurance company.

The best orientation Swift got this week was on a golf course, though.

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Swift shot a final round 71 to reach a playoff with Mark Donnell. In the playoff, Swift won easily, shooting 1-under to Donnell’s 4-over.

The orientation Swift received came in the way he views a golf tournament.

“I went out with the attitude that I was just going to enjoy this,” Swift said. “I haven’t played a lot of tournament golf, and I just wanted to use the first couple of rounds to get back into it.”

If shooting two rounds of even par 70 is getting back into it, then so be it. In the third round of the tournament played at Hoover Country Club, Swift decided he’d had enough of the even-par mess. He shot a 4-under 66, and climbed to within two shots of the lead set by Donnell.

Swift, in the final pairing of the day, started Sunday’s final round on an even keel. He parred the first two holes, then bogeyed a 225-yard par 3. He came back on the short par-4 fourth and made birdie. That put Swift at even par for the day.

His final round playing partner, Donnell, didn’t fare so well on the fourth. In fact, Donnell found himself under a small bush, hacking away at the ball. Eventually, Donnell completed the hole — with a quadruple bogey 8.

“I guess that was the biggest turning point of the round,” Swift said in hindsight.

But there were other important holes in the final round.

On the par-5 12th, Swift his approach shot to five feet.

“I had a really easy putt,” he said. The east putt didn’t fall, though.

Sometimes, missing the easy ones sparks a golfer. And that was the case for Swift on the next hole, the long par-4 13th. The day before, Swift had hit his drive in the water hazard off the tee. On Sunday, he striped his drive and still had 193 yards to the pin. He pulled a 5-iron and it within two feet of the pin.

“I guess that was kind of key to the round, too,” Swift said.

Swift made birdie there, he birdied the 16th, then bogeyed the 17th. Heading into No. 18 in regulation, he had a one stroke lead over Donnell.

Things didn’t get any easier on No. 18, though. Swift hit a tree limb off the tee and his ball dropped in the woods.

“I still had a shot to the green, but I didn’t execute it,” he said.

Swift made bogey on No. 18, while Donnell scrapped to a par.

That’s all the scrapping Donnell would do, though.

“I don’t know what it was, but mentally I wasn’t in it in the playoff,” Donnell told The Birmingham News.

Swift, on the other hand, was in it. He shot 1-under on four playoff holes and won the state amateur title.

So what’s next for the Selma golfer who once had dreams of playing professionally?

“Winning something like this does make you think a little,” Swift said of turning professional. “I really want to get stabilized here, though. I want to be able to join a club and play more often.”

The state amateur win will likely give Swift the opportunity to play more this summer.

“I’ll probably get a lot of invitations to play in tournaments,” he said. This weekend, he’ll play in the Greystone Invitational — the course where the Sr. PGA Tour plays its Brunos Memorial Classic each year.

Ah, but there’s one problem with that. Swift has a real job now.

“I hope they let me play,” he said of his new employer.