by Steve Valandra
For Kris Swanson, the return to competitive golf as a professional is very much about the future – one where he lives life without regrets.
“I read a little excerpt one time that a lot of people before they die don’t ever regret the things they have done but rather regret the things they didn’t do in life,” says Swanson, now 30 and embarking on a path that he hopes leads to the PGA Tour.
“I have put a lot of time and energy into this game and this is ideally the pinnacle, to be playing professionally. I don’t want to be older and think, ‘I didn’t give it all that I could have.’”
The journey has been in the making for some time. Swanson first picked up a golf club two decades ago when his mother worked at Indian Summer Country Club in Olympia, Wash.
As a teen, he helped Capital High School in Olympia win a state championship. Initially recruited by Washington State University, he later transferred to Saint Martin’s University and became part of the team that won the school’s first national title.
He worked as an assistant pro at Olympia Country and Golf Club and Tumwater Valley for several years before starting his own instruction business while maintaining duties as the head golf coach at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
Those who regularly seek his guidance as an instructor will tell you Swanson’s friendly demeanor and confidence-building attitude – he should patent his “We can fix that” phrase – always leaves them feeling after a lesson that they’re on the right track. Now, the instructor Swanson is applying the same traits to the player Swanson.
Through July, Swanson will be the traveling man. He will leave behind his wife, several dozen students and his day job at Golf USA in Lacey, Wash., to compete in events in California, Utah, New Mexico, Iowa and back to the Golden State. Top prize money in the events range from $2,500 to $100,000.
The venues are mapped out. His finances are in order.
The dream, like his tee shots, is now a vision of where he wants to be. All he needs are the proper results.
“My game is solid. I have always felt that I hit the ball extremely well enough to play tour golf, and I have the shots it takes,” Swanson says. “At this level it all comes down to being mentally stronger – and being a great putter.”
That became more evident during a qualifying event for the U.S. Open in May at the Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver. Just two holes of too many putts – including three-putting from four feet – cost him a chance to advance to a sectional qualifier in California.
Even so, Swanson understands that those misses are part of the game and can serve as a guiding light.
“I think going out and putting the time in and playing with confidence and knowing that I have done this thousands of times at a high level are key,” he says. “I know that I will have good days and bad days. I have to try not to be hard on myself and trust in my abilities.
“Oh, and yes, make a lot of putts.”
Golf at any level can be laborious at times and maddening. The game plays with a person’s head like no other sport. The difference between those who get through the tough times and those who don’t is often something that only comes with living – maturity.
“Years ago I was nowhere near mature enough to handle the grind,” Swanson says. “Now, I feel mentally strong enough to grind it out.”
• Today: Round 2 of Golden State Tour Lamkin Series #4, PGA West/Nicklaus Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif.
• June 19-24: San Juan Open, Farmington, N.M.
• July 9: Monday qualifier for the Utah Golf Championship (Nationwide Tour).
• July 18-22: Waterloo Open,Waterloo, Iowa.
• July 24-29: Long Beach Open, Long Beach, Calif.
In his bag
“I use a Titleist 910D3 Driver, 9.5 degree of loft, a TaylorMade RBZ 4 wood and a 19-degree TaylorMade rescue. I play Adams CB1 irons, 4-PW with Adams Puglielli wedges 52, 56 and 60 degree. I putt with a PING Answer 5 milled putter. I use the TaylorMade Penta TP 5 ball.”