Junior enjoys golf’s isolation
BLHS hoops standout likes to relax on the links
Tanner Swafford was the center of attention during the basketball season. The Basehor-Linwood junior star racked up 16.8 points per game and was awarded first-team all-league honors.
The pressure of holding the ball with the Bobcats down late in a game is nothing compared to the feeling Swafford gets when he enters the first tee box in front of a gallery of onlookers.
"I'm working on not being so tense under pressure when everyone is watching me," Swafford said. "I get nervous when people are watching me. It is a lot of pressure."
If Swafford can deal with the pressure as deftly as he picked up a new sport last year, he may be headed to state by the end of the season.
Swafford's golf career began at the age of 11 when his dad, Jeff, gave him a set of golf clubs as a gift. Father and son would make trips to the driving range to knock the ball around. They would fit a round in a couple of times a year, when time permitted.
It came as somewhat of a surprise last year when Swafford decided to join the golf team as a novice.
"I wanted to try an individual sport," Swafford said. "But I was nervous."
Swafford began golfing regularly for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised to find out he had natural ability on the links.
By the end of the season, Swafford was in a position to qualify for state. Only an implosion on one hole, which included hitting the ball out of bounds three times, precluded the trip.
"I will look back on that and make sure it doesn't happen again," Swafford said. "I will make sure that if one hole doesn't go well it doesn't ruin the rest of the day."
Swafford missed the cut by two strokes after shooting a nine on the nightmare hole.
Bobcat coach Chad Harvey noted that Swafford is the best athlete that the team has. The coach believes Swafford's athletic ability transcends playing fields.
"He is such a natural athlete." Harvey said. "His hand-eye coordination is on a different level than everyone else. He is a very strong kid; he hits the ball hard and far."
Swafford doesn't believe there are any similarities between the sports but agrees the combination of hand-eye coordination and strength is his greatest asset on the course.
"Basketball is a team sport," Swafford said. "In golf you have to rely on your own individual skill. You have virtually no contact to your team."
Swafford believes solitude is the toughest aspect of golf.
"Basketball is not as difficult because I know I have the experience at the game to know what I am doing," he said. "During the game you have a coach to help you out. In golf, you make your own decisions. It can be a little more difficult on you."
While Swafford admits he enjoys the recognition that comes with being a star on the basketball court, he likes golf for the opposite reason.
"With golf, I try to relax and have fun and not be so competitive," Swafford said. "It's different from basketball where I get frustrated every time I miss a shot."
Swafford said the highlight of his brief golfing career was an eagle on a par-5 last year at regionals.
Swafford's goal for his golf career is to reach the state tournament that so narrowly evaded him last year.
"It would be fun not to finish a couple strokes away from the cut this year," Swafford said.